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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 and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill Congress, states and cities are not doing enough today to fix our infrastructure It’s high time for a discussion on infrastructure 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 ChaoGeorge H.W. Bush remembered at Kennedy Center Honors Trump, first lady attend special Supreme Court ceremony for Kavanaugh 5 ways Democrats can turn the House win into future success 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 TrumpJoaquín Castro: Trump would be 'in court right now' if he weren't the president or 'privileged' Trump flubs speech location at criminal justice conference Comey reveals new details on Russia probe during House testimony 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 ThuneSunday shows preview: Trade talks, Cohen sentencing memo take center stage On The Money: Markets roiled by trade tensions | Rally on hopes of Fed pause on rate hikes | Senate sends two-week spending measure to Trump | Consumer bureau pick confirmed | Trade deficit at highest level since 2008 Trump runs into GOP opposition with NAFTA threat MORE (R-S.D.) moderated the working session, which also included Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoWhite House jumps into fight over energy subsidies Clock ticks down on GOP Congress Trump, first lady pay respects to Bush in Capitol MORE (R-Wyo.), who is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.