House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., declined to fully support President Joe Biden's proposed gas tax holiday on Wednesday, saying the Democratic Party leadership would need time to gauge support for the initiative.
"We will see where the consensus lies on a path forward for the President's proposal in the House and the Senate, building on the strong bills to lower prices at the pump already passed by House Democrats including the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act and the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act," Pelosi said in a statement.
Some might interpret Pelosi's response as lukewarm to the gas tax holiday, given her reputation for publicly supporting most of the White House's proposals.
Others might view it as a way of tempering expectations for an idea that sounds solid on paper, but might not yield a major impact at the pump.
A case in point: Earlier Wednesday, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm called the proposed reduction of 18 cents per gallon a "modest amount."
Shortly thereafter, at the same media lectern, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the 18-cent-per-gallon reduction "is going to go a long way."
And Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, had a few questions about the structure of President Biden's proposal.
"The challenge on the gas tax is: Is the savings really going to flow to the consumer? Or is it going to be pocketed by the oil companies?" Neal wondered. "Those are legitimate questions."
Pelosi's legislative references from earlier centered on a pair of bills designed to reduce gasoline prices — one by curbing price gouging, and the other by promoting homegrown biofuels.
Both measures have passed in the House in recent weeks, but there might be a different result in the Senate.
Democratic leaders have previously considered gas tax holidays, including one proposal that Pelosi rejected outright in March.
"The [proposal] is very showbiz. 'OK, let's just do something, there it is.' But it is not necessarily landing in the pocket of the consumer," Pelosi said then.
While promoting his proposal Wednesday, Biden said the gas tax holiday would help struggling families through the summer travel season.
He urged Congress to suspend the federal tax, and also called on states to suspend their own fuel taxes, which average 26 cents per gallon, according to the American Petroleum Institute.
Anticipating a pushback, Biden also pressed oil companies to pass the savings on to drivers.
"There's no time now for profiteering," Biden said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., is skeptical that a gas tax holiday would be effective in the long term.
"What I’m not sure of is that, in fact, that will have the effect, the intended effect, in terms of the retail price — whether in fact it will save consumers money," he said.
Hoyer also speculated on the gas tax holiday's viability in the House chamber.
"I don't know whether we have the votes," Hoyer said, even though the Democrats control the House, Senate and the White House. "We haven't counted."
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