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Gas tax holiday likely to land on empty amid Democratic opposition

<i>Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images</i><br/>President Joe Biden's call for Congress to suspend federal gasoline and diesel taxes will likely land on empty in the Senate.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
President Joe Biden's call for Congress to suspend federal gasoline and diesel taxes will likely land on empty in the Senate.

By Daniella Diaz, Annie Grayer, Lauren Fox and Sarah Fortinsky, CNN

President Joe Biden’s call for Congress to suspend federal gasoline and diesel taxes will likely land on empty in the Senate.

Even if he can get all 50 Democratic senators behind the legislation, he would still need 10 Republicans to join the cause to advance the measure, which seems extremely unlikely.

Republicans widely oppose lifting the gas tax — even some Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have been cool to the idea that former President Barack Obama labeled a “gimmick” in 2008 when he was a candidate. Pelosi has previously argued that oil companies could pocket the savings and not pass it onto the consumers.

In a sign of an uphill climb for Biden, moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told CNN’s Manu Raju Tuesday evening that he’s “a little skeptical” of the gas tax holiday that Biden plans to embrace, saying “there’s no guarantee” it will reduce gas prices.

And Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat from Biden’s home state of Delaware, said in a tweet he was “glad” Biden was exploring ideas for gas prices, but added it was a ” a shortsighted and inefficient way to provide relief.”

With Manchin and Carper sounding opposed, Democrats also would fail if they tried to pass such a measure themselves through a procedure called reconciliation, which would only require 50 votes to advance.

Democratic Whip Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois told CNN Wednesday he’s supportive of the proposal, but he warned that the administration and Congress needed to be “honest” about the effects it would actually have in effectively driving down the cost of gas. He also warned it could affect infrastructure funding, which the federal gas tax supports.

Those most likely to rally behind the political ploy are vulnerable Democrats facing reelection this fall who are taking a beating with voters over the inflated gas prices, among other troubling economic news.

Democratic Sens. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Mark Kelly of Arizona — facing heated reelection bids in swing states — introduced a bill to suspend the federal gas tax back in February, but Senate Democratic leadership hasn’t made any moves to advance the measure.

Senate Democrats largely hesitated to embrace Biden’s push for a gas tax holiday. They acknowledged the President has few options to ease inflationary burdens but warned the policy might not yield the desired results.

Some Democrats, however, have reluctantly said they would embrace the policy. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, one of Biden’s closest allies in the Senate, said he knows gas prices is a concern for Biden, so “I’m willing to embrace his proposals for a gas tax holiday.” He noted, however, he wasn’t sure it has the support to pass the Senate.

“What I hear from Delawareans is that the price at the pump is causing a lot of pain for working families,” Coons said. “That’s something I know the President is concerned about and sensitive to and I’m willing to embrace his proposals for a gas tax holiday. I don’t know whether it will get the votes it needs here in the Senate, but I am talking to my colleagues about that.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters on Wednesday he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have “reservations” about a gas tax holiday.

“Pelosi, myself, we’ve all expressed reservations about it,” Hoyer said. “But the President of the United States proposed it. We’ll look at it.”

Hoyer said that although he supports what Biden is trying to do, he is worried that such a provision would hurt consumers.

“The question is, if you reduce the tax, does it endure to the benefit of the consumer? That’s the real key,” Hoyer said.

This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.

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