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President Joe Biden on Wednesday asked Congress to enact a three-month suspension of the federal tax on gasoline and diesel fuel as a stopgap measure meant to curb the rising energy prices that have driven inflation to levels unseen since the late 1970s.
“Today I’m calling on Congress to suspend the federal gas tax for the next 90 days, through the busy summer season, the busy travel season,” he said at a White House event Wednesday afternoon.
“We can bring down the price of gas and give families a little bit of relief,” the president continued.
In addition to requesting a temporary halt to collection of the 18 cents per gallon tax on gasoline and the 24-cent tax on diesel collected by the federal government, Mr Biden is also asking state governments across the country to suspend their own state-level fuel taxes.
Two states — Connecticut and New York — have already suspended their gas taxes, while others are delaying implementation of planned gas tax increases or considering tax suspensions of their own. Other state governments have debated other stopgap measures, including tax rebates and other relief payments to lessen the pain Americans are feeling each time they fuel their vehicles.
“President Biden understands that a gas tax holiday alone will not, on its own, relieve the run up in costs that we’ve seen. But the President believes that at this unique moment when the war in Ukraine is imposing costs on American families, Congress should do what it can to provide working families breathing room,” the White House said.
Mr Biden’s latest gambit to lower energy costs comes as gas prices are hitting record highs, with the average price per gallon in some states topping six dollars.
The spike in gas prices is in part due to the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Moscow by most western governments as a result. In the months since the war began, gas prices have risen by roughly two dollars per gallon.
But Mr Biden has also placed blame on oil companies for the record gas prices. In a letter to the CEOs of the largest petroleum producers operating in the US, he noted that refining capacity is at historic lows and has called on the companies to up their production to meet demand.
Republicans have sought to blame what they describe as Mr Biden’s “war on American energy” — a pejorative used as a catch-all shorthand for the Biden administration’s sensitivity to environmental concerns and push to encourage alternative energy sources.
Yet the White House has repeatedly pushed back on critics by noting that the US produced more oil during Mr Biden’s first year in office than in the first two years of former president Donald Trump’s term.