GOP chairman: Republicans' reactions 'mixed' on gas tax increase

GOP chairman: Republicans' reactions 'mixed' on gas tax increase
© Greg Nash

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterHouse GOP chairman introduces draft of infrastructure plan Hoyer updates Dems' economic agenda with sights on taking House Overnight Defense: VA pick breezes through confirmation hearing | House votes to move on defense bill negotiations | Senate bill would set 'stringent' oversight on North Korea talks MORE (R-Pa.) on Thursday said he received a “mixed” reaction when he brought up the gas tax during an infrastructure meeting at the GOP retreat.

Shuster said the subject “was the elephant in the room” during a working session that included several lawmakers, Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoMcConnell: I won't be intimidated by protesters Protesters confront McConnell leaving Kentucky restaurant The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Wild night of primaries reshapes 2018 midterms MORE and White House economic adviser Gary Cohn.

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“Look, nobody wants to raise taxes. Nobody wants to raise fees in this country,” Shuster told reporters at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

Shuster has long maintained that all options are on the table to contribute to an infrastructure overhaul, though he has also noted the gas tax hike’s unpopularity among Republicans.

Proponents of raising the levy argue doing so is necessary to keep the Highway Trust Fund afloat. Money from the 18.4-cent-per-gallon tax goes into the fund to pay for road projects, but that tax has not been raised since 1993, eroding the fund’s purchasing power over time.

But increasing the tax has received varied reviews from lawmakers in both parties, though industry groups and some members of Congress have rallied behind an effort to raise the fee.

Shuster on Thursday emphasized that any infrastructure package must have bipartisan support, conceding that the GOP majority may have to lose some Republican votes to get Democrats on board.

“First and foremost, it has to be bipartisan to get it through the Senate,” Shuster said. “And if we want to attract Democrats in the House, we probably lose some Republican votes.”

The Pennsylvania Republican’s comments come after President TrumpDonald John TrumpBrennan fires new shot at Trump: ‘He’s drunk on power’ Trump aides discussed using security clearance revocations to distract from negative stories: report Trump tried to dissuade Melania from 'Be Best' anti-bullying campaign: report MORE during his annual State of the Union address called on Congress to craft an infrastructure plan of “at least” $1.5 trillion to overhaul U.S. ports, bridges, highways, airports and other public works.

But the president offered few details on a proposal, which he said must streamline the permitting process and include public-private partnerships “where appropriate.”

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate gets to work in August — but many don’t show up GOP leader criticizes Republican senators for not showing up to work Ex-Trump adviser: Shutdown 'not worst idea in the world' MORE (R-S.D.) moderated the working session, which also included Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Trump EPA to defend Obama smog rule | Wheeler gets warmer welcome before Senate | Animal rights groups sue Interior over pro-hunting council EPA’s Wheeler gets warmer welcome at Senate hearing Trump has no plans to endorse in Tennessee GOP governor's race: report MORE (R-Wyo.), who is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.