Democrats say they will act soon to lower gas prices
House Democrats intend to move in the coming weeks to pass legislation designed to rein in skyrocketing gas prices, the head of the House Democratic Caucus said Wednesday.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) did not commit his support for a federal gas tax holiday, which has divided Democrats on and off of Capitol Hill.
But he said suspending the gas tax is one of “many” proposals under consideration by party leaders, who have addressed the issue with some urgency in closed-door discussions in the 24 hours since the House returned to Washington from a long Easter recess.
“It’s part of the discussion, and the discussion is ongoing,” Jeffries said of the gas tax holiday. “We are definitely going to act to try to address the geopolitical issues that relate to gas prices being where they are [and] act in terms of some of the supply chain challenges.”
High gas prices have increasingly become a political liability for President Biden and the majority Democrats as they fight against long odds to keep control of the House in November’s midterm elections. This week, the average cost of a gallon of gas was $4.21, according to the Energy Information Administration, an increase of roughly 43 percent from a year ago.
Those high costs hit low- and middle-class drivers disproportionately, and a number of Democratic lawmakers have proposed to suspend the federal gas tax, currently at 18.3 cents per gallon, to provide some relief.
Late last month, just before the long recess, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had rejected the idea of such a suspension. Pelosi warned that there’s no way to ensure that gas companies would pass the savings on to consumers.
But the issue is clearly on the Democrats’ radar this week. Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) huddled in the Capitol on Tuesday in search of ways to bring down the price at the pump, according to a source with knowledge of the meeting. And Jeffries said the issue was front-and-center during closed-door meetings of both Democratic leaders, on Tuesday, and the full caucus Wednesday morning.
Biden and other Democratic leaders have placed much of the blame for the high costs on Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose invasion of Ukraine in February disrupted the fuel trade around the globe and led to an immediate spike in prices at the pump. Republicans have rejected that argument, saying Biden bears the blame for refusing to expand oil and gas drilling domestically.
Democrats are also pointing fingers at the nation’s oil producers, urging them to drill on lands already approved for that purpose — a charge amplified by Jeffries on Wednesday.
“It would be a useful thing if the oil companies made a decision to actually lean in on the permits that they currently have to do something about the supply and demand challenges instead of being more concerned with rewarding their shareholders — lining their pockets to the detriment of everyday Americans and the American consumer,” Jeffries said. “But we’re going to act.”
Jeffries did not specify a timeline to consider legislation, but suggested the aim was to stage a vote before the end of May, when Congress will recess for a long Memorial Day holiday.
“The sooner we can get it done the better — hopefully over the next few weeks,” he said.
This story was updated at 1:23 p.m.
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