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 panel unveils bipartisan water infrastructure bill GOP chairman calls infrastructure meeting as Trump plan remains on hold Overnight Energy: EPA moves to roll back chemical plant safety rule | NASA chief says humans contribute to climate change | Pruitt gets outside lawyer 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 brother-in-law picked by Trump to lead pension agency Washington celebrates Bret Baier's new book The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate 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 TrumpPompeo to outline post-deal strategy on Iran Trump asking aides whether he should proceed with North Korea summit: report Stopping Robert Mueller to protect us all 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 ThunePost-Zuckerberg, tech CEOs under pressure to testify Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers target Chinese tech giants | Dems move to save top cyber post | Trump gets a new CIA chief | Ryan delays election security briefing | Twitter CEO meets lawmakers Twitter CEO meets with lawmakers to talk net neutrality, privacy MORE (R-S.D.) moderated the working session, which also included Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoWatchdog to probe EPA email preservation Overnight Energy: EPA moves to roll back chemical plant safety rule | NASA chief says humans contribute to climate change | Pruitt gets outside lawyer House lawmakers to unveil water resources bill on Friday MORE (R-Wyo.), who is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.