WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is facing an uphill battle to get Congress and some states on board to suspend federal and state gas taxes — a move aimed at offering relief to Americans as gas prices surpass $5 a gallon around the country.
Biden was met with skepticism Wednesday as he called on lawmakers on Capitol Hill and states to suspend the federal gas tax for the next three months. The move would pause a federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon of gas and 24.4 cents for diesel.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., wrote in a tweet he was glad the president was looking for ways to lower gas prices but wasn't entirely convinced slashing taxes was the answer.
"Suspending the primary way that we pay for infrastructure projects on our roads is a shortsighted and inefficient way to provide relief," Carper said.
As he called on Congress to suspend the gas tax, Biden said he wanted to do "everything possible to bring the price of energy down gas prices down."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., would not commit to supporting the proposal, instead saying “we will see where the consensus lies on a path forward for the president’s proposal in the House and the Senate.”
Cutting the state gas tax in addition to the federal suspension could add to savings for beleaguered American families.
But some experts warn the gas prices would climb after the tax holiday is over.
"This is a gimmick. It would make bad inflation situation, underlying pressures of an inflation situation worse," said Marc Goldwein, senior vice president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a non-profit public policy organization focused on fiscal issues in Washington, D.C.
Earlier this year, Maryland, Connecticut, Georgia, New York and Florida had already enacted a gas tax holiday.
Now, it’s unclear if Biden can also get more states to support suspending their own gas taxes, even as some governors are applauding Biden for trying to find solutions on a federal level.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer praised Biden for looking to suspend the federal gas tax and called for a temporary suspension of the state sales tax on gas.
“Americans are feeling the pain at the pump with gas reaching $5 a gallon this month, so I am glad that President Biden is calling for a temporary suspension of the federal gas tax,” Whitmer said in a statement. “If we suspend the Michigan sales tax on gas and also get this done, we can save families nearly 50 cents a gallon right now.”
Whitmer previously vowed to cut Michigan’s 6% sales tax on gasoline purchases after she vetoed legislation that would have paused her states’ gas tax for six months. A new bill is being considered that would suspend the gas tax for three months, according to Kiplinger.
More than a dozen states have considered suspending gas tax increases or delaying increases of gas taxes. So far Colorado, Illinois and Kentucky have suspended gas tax increases.
Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado said he supports Biden’s request to Congress on the federal gas tax, but did not say whether he would suspend the sales tax in his state.
“We would love to see the Congress finally suspend the federal gas tax to save people money,” Polis said in a statement Wednesday. “This should fly through Congress and I would dare anyone to oppose suspending a 22 cent gas tax for three months that will provide some immediate relief at the pump.”
Some governors have previously said they will not suspend the gas tax in their states.
“It’s dead. It’s gone. That situation is over,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said in a press briefing earlier this month. Democrats in West Virginia had been pushing to pass a gas tax holiday.
Some other governors, like Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, have called on their state legislatures to pass legislation suspending the gas tax to no avail.
The Virginia state Senate blocked a measure Youngkin introduced earlier this month for a 90-day gas tax holiday. Democrats hold a slim majority in the state Senate. The measure passed the House of Delegates, which is Republican controlled.
Youngkin tweeted Wednesday that Democrats in his state are “out of step with everyday people and their own party.”
“Gas prices are not sustainable for families in Virginia, and it is astonishing that Senate Democrats blocked my gas relief proposal three times and squandered the opportunity to do the right thing,” he wrote in a separate tweet Wednesday. “Virginians deserved a better answer than ‘no.’”
Contributing: Joey Garrison
Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: States, Congress skeptical of Biden's gas tax holiday