Doomed Already? Biden’s Gas Tax Holiday Is Unpopular on Capitol Hill
Significant opposition has emerged from both sides of the aisle.
Last week, President Biden announced the latest Hail Mary to attempt to get gas prices down. It’s a three-month holiday for the federal gas tax.
The president, according to the White House statement, is “calling on Congress to suspend the federal gas tax for three months, through September, without taking any money away from the Highway Trust Fund. And he is calling on states to take similar action to provide some direct relief, whether suspending their own gas taxes or helping consumers in other ways.”
The government currently levies an 18-cent tax per gallon of gasoline and a 24-cent tax per gallon of diesel.
“President Biden understands that a gas tax holiday alone will not, on its own, relieve the run up in costs that we’ve seen. But the President believes that at this unique moment when the war in Ukraine is imposing costs on American families, Congress should do what it can to provide working families breathing room,” the announcement said.
`The tax holiday would require an act of Congress, and the question is whether the president has the votes to pass the proposal.
Politico last week described the plan as “likely doomed.” That’s because significant opposition has emerged from both sides of the aisle.
“I’ve not been a proponent of the gas tax,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House leadership, told Politico. “I just don’t know that it gives much relief.”
During a gas price spike coinciding with the 2008 presidential campaign, then-candidate Barack Obama opposed the idea of a gas tax holiday, calling it a “gimmick.”
Economists and other experts remain skeptical of the idea. Per a Fox News report, even some Biden aides are opposed to the idea of a gas tax holiday.
“The risk is that at a time when the supply-and-demand balance that sets prices is already extremely out of balance, it would enable more Americans to hit the road,” Patrick DeHaan, director of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, told CNN.
“Barack Obama was right,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) tweeted last week. “A gas tax holiday was a bad idea in 2008 and it's a bad idea today. If we're serious about providing consumers relief at the gas pump, let's take on the greed of big oil by enacting a windfall profits tax and ending OPEC's illegal price-fixing cartel.”
Assuming the vote went otherwise along party lines, the loss of Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, would indicate Biden lacks the votes to get the proposal through the Senate.
Some states, however, have passed gas tax holidays.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.