They don’t know what to do.
As a proposal to suspend federal gas tax gains momentum among Senate Democrats, their colleagues are wary about the cost-cutting measures.
Concerned with the effect back-breaking gas prices would have on their reelection bids in this year’s midterms, two Senate Democrats have sponsored a bill that would suspend the 18.4 cents per gallon of federal gas tax until January 2023.
Democratic Senators Mark Kelly of Arizona and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, the bill’s cosponsors, are facing competitive reelection races.
Before this bill, Democrats never gave much credence to suspending federal gas tax as the tax is the primary source of funds for the Highway Trust Fund, paying for federal roads and bridges.
However, anxiety over their respective races has caused several Senate Democrats to consider taking this action, driving many to be vocal in their support of the bill.
Serious chatter about suspending federal gas tax first emerged at last week’s Dems retreat at Howard University in Washington.
The consensus was that the Russia-Ukraine conflict was putting pressure on already skyrocketing gas prices.
Speaking about mitigating the crisis, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania said that there were plenty of “steps” Democrats “either considered or moved forward on that we may not have considered before. That’s the nature of the crisis we’re in.” He continued his statements, adding that it was important “to consider measures that directly help families.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, whose state is currently experiencing a nearly 50 percent year-on-year increase, was one of six Democratic governors who wrote congressional leaders urging them to suspend the federal gas tax.
The letter signed by Governors Tony Evers of Wisconsin, Jared Polis of Colorado, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Tim Walz of Minnesota, and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, stated that “a federal gas tax holiday is a tool in the toolbox” to reduce the impact of “rising prices on everyday goods.”
All these Governors are seeking reelection, with Evers and Whitmer battling toss-up races.
Another Governor up for reelection next year, Andy Beshear, announced on Thursday (March 10) that he was joining his fellow Governors in the call to suspend the federal gas tax.
But, Congressional leaders don’t seem as enthused.
Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware mentioned his reservations, stating: “the principle that those who use roads, highways, and bridges should have an opportunity to help pay for them,” adding that the federal government is “not even coming close to paying for the roads, highways, and bridges.”
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) also shared his skepticism, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA.) warned that drafting a bill where consumers see the savings of gas tax would be especially challenging.
Democratic Senator John Hickenlooper of Colorado, who supports the bill, also noted that “There’s still a certain level of divided opinion” among Democrats on suspending federal gas tax.