President Joe Biden said Monday he is considering unveiling a federal gas tax holiday that could cut the price of fuel as Americans continue to struggle with dramatic levels of inflation.
“I hope I have a decision based on the data. I’m looking for by the end of the week,” the president told reporters in Delaware, saying he was “considering” the proposal.
Doing so would require action by Congress, and any cut to the gas tax would limit federal income used to pay for highways.
The gas tax is currently 18.4 cents a gallon, and suspending it would help lower the price at the pump, which sat at $4.98 a gallon on average nationwide on Monday. Some states have prices far higher, notably California, where the average price for a gallon is $6.39, according to AAA.
Those prices are slightly lower than the more than $5 per gallon average earlier this month, but are an uncomfortable increase for millions of Americans reckoning with surging rent and food prices.
Biden ordered the release of millions of barrels of oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve earlier this year, and the government increased the amount of ethanol blended into fuel to help stymie the record prices. But those actions have so far done little to rein in costs.
The White House has pointed to Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine as a key driver of the runaway prices. But Biden has also lambasted oil companies for failing to help defray costs, noting such businesses have raked in billions in profits during the crisis.
“I want an explanation for why they aren’t refining more oil,” Biden said Monday, just before members of his administration were set to meet with oil company CEOs later this week.
It’s unclear how long a potential gas tax holiday could last, and some top Democrats have voiced opposition for one in the past. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said the issue isn’t off the table, but said it was merely “good PR” in April, adding there was “no guarantee that the reduction in the federal tax would be passed on to the consumer.”
The White House sent letters to the country’s major oil companies last week, threatening to invoke emergency powers if they didn’t work to bring prices down for consumers. Fuel companies, however, appear unmoved.
“At a time of war, refinery profit margins well above normal being passed directly onto American families are not acceptable,” the president wrote. “Your companies need to work with my Administration to bring forward concrete, near-term solutions that address the crisis.”