“We will see where the consensus lies on a path forward for the President’s proposal in the House and the Senate,” Pelosi said in a statement, noting that House Democrats have passed several bills meant to lower gas prices, such as one that would bar gas stations from price gouging.
None of the bills have been voted on by the Senate.
Biden, shortly before Pelosi’s statement, said in remarks from the White House that Congress suspending the tax for 90 days would “give families just a little bit of relief.”
The government charges a tax of 18 cents per gallon, and the tax helps fund the Highway Trust Fund.
Congress should also allocate approximately $10 billion, which is the projected shortfall for the fund if the tax suspension is passed, according to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
“We’ll still be able to fix our highways and bring down the prices of gas” if that happens, Biden said. “We can do both at the same time.”
Gas prices have skyrocketed since Biden took office in January 2021. The national average, as measured by the American Automobile Association (AAA), crossed $5 a gallon for the first time ever this month.
Support in Congress is mixed for a gas tax suspension, even among Democrats.
Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), who introduced legislation that would suspend the tax, cheered Biden’s call.
“This gas tax suspension would put money directly back into their pockets, lower shipping costs, and help address inflation—I encourage the president to extend his suspension ask to the end of this year,” he said in a statement.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), expressed the opposite view, calling a suspension “a shortsighted and inefficient way to provide relief.”
Democrats control both chambers in Congress, but would need Republican support to pass a suspension in the Senate even if all 50 Democrats and nominal independents vote for it.
Pelosi herself has previously suggested she doesn’t back the move, telling reporters in March that the proposal “is very showbiz.”
“‘Let’s just do something, there it is.’ But it is not necessarily landing in the pocket of the consumer,” she said.
Granholm acknowledged that companies could keep the money. When she meets with oil company executives on Thursday, she plans “to ensure they would pass this on.”
When states have suspended their taxes in recent months, consumers saw price cuts, but companies didn’t pass on all the savings, a University of Pennsylvania study found.
The school has estimated that a federal gas tax suspension would have little effect at the pump.
Pelosi also backed Biden’s strategy of blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin and oil companies for the surge in prices, even though experts say many other factors, including actions from the Biden administration like its suspension of drilling permits on federal lands, are in play.
“Democrats are united in our determination to lower gas prices for families at the pump. It is unacceptable that American families are being squeezed at the pump while Big Oil rakes in massive profits at their expense in the middle of Putin’s War,” Pelosi said.
The overwhelming majority of Republicans, meanwhile, panned Biden’s request.
“This ineffective stunt will join President Biden’s other ineffective stunts on gas prices, emptying out the Strategic Petroleum Reserve that we need in the event of a true natural security crisis, not just a Democrat-fueled inflation crisis,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor in Washington.
“Suspending the federal gas tax is just another Biden Administration stunt to distract from their self-inflicted crisis. We can lower gas prices by unleashing American energy production,” Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) added in a statement.