By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON -U.s. President Joe Biden is expected on Wednesday to call for temporarily suspending the 18.4-cents a gallon federal tax on gasoline, a source briefed on the plan told Reuters on Tuesday.
Biden said Monday he was considering whether to call for a pause in the tax, as the United States struggles to tackle soaring gasoline prices and inflation. A gas tax holiday faces significant opposition in Congress, including among many Democrats. The plan was reported earlier by Punchbowl News.
The White House, which said Biden will deliver remarks on gas prices at 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday, declined to comment.
High gasoline prices pose a significant political problem for Biden and congressional Democrats as they struggle to maintain their slim control of Congress in November’s midterm elections.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, on Tuesday called on Biden to support suspending the gas tax saying “getting this done will offer real, immediate relief without compromising the federal government’s ability to make infrastructure investments.”
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair Peter DeFazio, a Democrat, said “suspending the federal gas tax will not provide meaningful relief at the pump for American families, but it will blow a multi-billion-dollar hole in the highway trust fund.”
Republicans are widely opposed to the gas tax suspension. In February, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell ridiculed a suspension backed by some Democrats, saying “they’ve spent an entire year waging a holy war on affordable American energy.”
Biden has pulled on numerous levers to try to lower prices, including a record release of barrels from U.S. strategic reserves, waivers on rules for producing summer gasoline, and leaning on major OPEC countries to boost output.
Fuel prices have been surging around the world due to a combination of rebounding demand, sanctions on oil producer Russia after its invasion of Ukraine and a squeeze on refining capacity. Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation”.
On June 11, the price of U.S. gasoline averaged more than $5 a gallon for the first time, data from AAA showed. It was $4.97 on https://gasprices.aaa.com Tuesday.
Adjusting for inflation, the U.S. gasoline average was still below June 2008 highs of around $5.41 a gallon, according to U.S. Energy Department figures.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Eric Beech and Christopher Cushing)