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 ShusterLobbying firm cuts ties to Trent Lott amid national anti-racism protests Ex-Rep. Frelinghuysen joins law and lobby firm Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR 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 ChaoWider impact of COVID: Some voids will be forever, some need not be OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration says proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska is not a threat to fisheries | Democrats push environmental policies in 9.5B budget package | Green groups threaten suit over push to transport liquefied natural gas by rail Environmentalists threaten suit over push to transport liquefied natural gas by rail 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 TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally 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 ThuneThe Hill's 12:30 Report: White House, Dems debate coronavirus relief package The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal Trump dismisses legal questions on GOP nomination speech at White House MORE (R-S.D.) moderated the working session, which also included Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoLatest Trump proposal on endangered species could limit future habitat, critics say Republicans dismiss Trump proposal to delay election Barrasso nuclear bill latest GOP effort to boost uranium mining MORE (R-Wyo.), who is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.