GOP chairman: No appetite for gas tax hike now in House

GOP chairman: No appetite for gas tax hike now in House
© Greg Nash

The head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said on Thursday that there is little appetite in the lower chamber right now for a hike in the federal gasoline tax.

The administration is considering a 7-cent gas tax increase to pay for President Trump’s long-stalled infrastructure plan, which would be the first federal hike in the fuel tax in more than two decades.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) reportedly said that though there is little enthusiasm at present, members could get on board with the idea if the White House gets publicly involved on the issue and actively advocates for an increase. He emphasized that the president needs to take the lead on the infrastructure package.

“There’s no sense in me going out there and putting something out and all of a sudden the president beats it down,” Shuster told reporters, according to CQ Roll Call.

Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, told moderate House lawmakers at a private meeting on Wednesday that they'll get a chance to vote on a gas tax hike early next year as part of an infrastructure bill, according to two lawmakers who were present.

Separately, an industry source tells The Hill that the White House intends to back a 7-cent gas tax increase to pay for U.S. roads, bridges, highways and other public works, though it’s unclear if the proposal would be included in initial infrastructure legislation or if the administration will push to have it added at the committee level.

Trump signaled some openness to raising the federal gas tax earlier this year, telling Bloomberg News that it’s something he would “certainly consider.”

But the idea, a politically fraught issue that lawmakers have avoided for years, quickly ran into fierce opposition from GOP lawmakers and influential conservatives. 

However, as the White House scrambles to score a legislative victory, the administration may be eager to identify potential funding options for Trump's infrastructure plan.

The movement comes at the same time that congressional Republicans are racing to write legislation that would enact massive tax cuts, with the goal of releasing a bill next week.

The administration is less further along on its infrastructure plan, meaning that details — including offsets — are far from finalized. The administration promised to offer more guidance about the proposal in late summer or early fall, but it has yet to publicly release any more information.

Shuster told reporters on Thursday that while he believes tax reform should come first, he thinks infrastructure should immediately afterwards.

“Tax reform should definitely go first," he said. “But we should be coming right behind it.”