Four of the six Democrats in Colorado’s congressional delegation support President Joe Biden’s call for a three-month federal gas tax pause, with a fifth — U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette — saying she’s open, but not committed to the idea.
“She’s looking at it now,” said DeGette’s spokesman, Ryan Brown. “She strongly supports taking steps to bring down these record-high gas prices as soon as possible, she just needs to be convinced that a temporary pause of the gas tax will actually lead to lower prices at the pump and not just further pad big oil’s bottom line.”
It’s unlikely the federal gas tax pause will come to fruition, with congressional Democrats uneasy about the proposal. Congress would have to act to suspend the tax, but many federal lawmakers, including some Democrats, have expressed reservations about whether gas prices would actually be reduced by the pause. Even many economists view the idea of a gas tax holiday with skepticism.
The average cost of a gallon of regular gas in Colorado was $4.88 on Thursday, according to AAA.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered a noncommittal response to Biden’s proposal, saying she would look to see if there was support for it in Congress.
“We will see where the consensus lies on a path forward for the president’s proposal in the House and the Senate,” the California Democrat said.
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Unlikely to pass a gas tax holiday through the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said last week that Democrats will focus instead on their bill to crack down on oil companies “manipulating the market” for higher prices and profits. “We’re going to focus on that issue,” he said.
The New York Times called the proposal the “latest sign of the desperation in the White House to find even modest steps to address an issue that is eating away at the president’s support.”
“It doesn’t reduce all the pain but it will be a big help,” Biden said. “I’m doing my part. I want Congress, states and industry to do their part as well.”
The tax is roughly 18 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24 cents per gallon of diesel.
Here’s what the other Democrats in Colorado’s congressional delegation said:
- “Nearly half of my constituents live paycheck to paycheck,” said U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, a Centennial Democrat. “They can’t afford to bear the cost of big oil’s stock buybacks and shareholder payouts. Suspending the federal gas tax is the right move to deliver relief to Americans who have been paying for this price gouging.”
- “High prices at the gas pump are hurting Coloradans, and we must do everything we can to provide them relief,” U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said. “Congress should act swiftly to suspend the federal gas tax temporarily to lower costs for working families and take steps to hold large oil companies accountable to ensure these savings reach consumers.”
- “Sen. (John) Hickenlooper supports suspending the gas tax,” said his spokeswoman, Alyssa Roberts. “It’s not everything, but we have to do anything we can to lower costs for Americans.”
- U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse’s office simply said that the congressman from Lafayette supports the proposal.
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat who is in his final months in Congress before he retires from politics, opposes the idea.
“I appreciate President Biden’s desire to take action for hard working families in the middle but I am concerned the call to temporarily suspend the federal gas tax will not have the intended result — and that’s to ease the pain in a significant way directly for consumers,” Perlmutter said in a written statement.
Biden administration officials said the $10 billion cost of the gas tax holiday would be paid for and the Highway Trust Fund, which finances most federal highway and transit projects, would be kept whole, even though the gas taxes make up a substantial source of revenue for the fund. The officials did not specify any new revenue sources.
The president has also called on energy companies to accept lower profit margins to increase oil production and refining capacity for gasoline.
The Colorado Sun asked all three Republicans in Colorado’s congressional delegation about the proposal. The Sun only heard back from U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, whose spokesman said the Garfield County congresswoman opposes the proposal.
“If we unleashed American energy, we could reduce the price of gas by dollars on the gallon like we did with President Trump,” Boebert said in a statement. “The American people don’t want gas prices to go down by 18 cents, they want it to go down by two to three dollars.”
Biden has also called on states to pause their gas taxes. In Colorado, the tax is 22 cents per gallon of gasoline. Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, said he supports the idea of a state gas tax pause, but lawmakers, who would likely have to gather for a special legislative session, have signaled they are not on board.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.