State Department adviser: Conditions are different from when Obama called gas tax holiday a ‘gimmick’

Associated Press/Steven Senne

A State Department official defended President Biden’s decision to urge Congress to suspend federal gasoline and diesel taxes for the summer as a measure of relief for the public. 

Amos Hochstein, the senior adviser for global energy security in the department, told CNN’s John Berman on Wednesday that current conditions are different from when then-presidential candidate Barack Obama called a gas tax holiday a “gimmick” during his campaign. 

Obama said in April 2008, with the Great Recession underway and gas prices soaring, that approving a temporary relief period is not the answer to rising costs. 

“We’re arguing over a gimmick to save you half a tank of gas over the course of the entire summer so that everyone in Washington can pat themselves on the back and say that they did something,” Obama said at the time. 

Hochstein said Biden’s Wednesday call for Congress to suspend the federal gas tax for three months is what the federal government can do to give “breathing room” to the American people. 

The federal government currently levies an 18.4-cent tax on gas and 24.4-cent tax on diesel fuel. Biden’s announcement comes as gas prices have risen sharply in the face of lingering supply disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions that countries have put in place in response. 

Hochstein said the cost of a gallon of gas has increased by about $2 since Russian forces amassed on Ukraine’s border and invaded in the country in February. He said these conditions put the country in “unprecedented times” and that Biden has said he would do what he can to reduce the price of gas. 

Hochstein added that Biden is also urging governors to do what they can to suspend state-level gas taxes or turn to other measures like partial refunds. He said the average state tax on gasoline is about 30 cents, so consumers could see a 50-cent cut in the price if states act as Biden is urging the federal government to.

The gas tax holiday proposal received criticism from a member of the president’s party: Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) posted on Twitter that he’s happy that Biden to looking for ways to lower the cost of gas but that suspending gas taxes, which he said pays for infrastructure projects, is a “shortsighted and inefficient way to provide relief.”

Tags Amos Hochstein Barack Obama Barack Obama gas prices gas tax holiday Joe Biden President Joe Biden Russia-Ukraine war state department Tom Carper Tom Carper

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