Biden weighs Warnock’s proposal to suspend federal gas tax

President Joe Biden, right, said he hopes to have a decision by the end of the week on whether to suspend the federal gas tax of 18 cents a gallon. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock has been among the biggest supporters seeking a federal gas tax holiday as a way to ease inflation. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Combined ShapeCaption
President Joe Biden, right, said he hopes to have a decision by the end of the week on whether to suspend the federal gas tax of 18 cents a gallon. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock has been among the biggest supporters seeking a federal gas tax holiday as a way to ease inflation. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

President Joe Biden is weighing a proposal backed by Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock to suspend the federal gas tax in hopes of stemming rising prices at the pumps.

The Georgia Democrat has for months lobbied the White House to suspend the federal gas tax to combat high energy prices, part of a broader effort to curb inflation as a tough November election against Republican Herschel Walker approaches.

But the idea, which would require congressional approval, has only picked up significant traction in recent days.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Sunday that she was open to a federal gas tax holiday, which could save motorists about 18 cents a gallon. And Biden told reporters Monday that he was considering whether to endorse a gas tax holiday.

“I hope to have a decision based on the data I’m looking for by the end of the week,” he told reporters. White House officials say the rollout of the policy could coincide with the July Fourth holiday, when millions of Americans hit the road for vacations.

Georgia lawmakers have already suspended the state’s 29.1 cents-a-gallon gas tax, which Gov. Brian Kemp recently extended until July. Stacey Abrams, his Democratic opponent, is pressing him to suspend the tax through the year’s end.

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Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, left, has pressed Gov. Brian Kemp to extend a suspension on the state's gas tax through the end of the year, saving Georgia motorists about 29 cents per gallon. Kemp recently extended the suspension into mid-July. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton).

Credit: Stephen B. Morton

Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, left, has pressed Gov. Brian Kemp to extend a suspension on the state's gas tax through the end of the year, saving Georgia motorists about 29 cents per gallon. Kemp recently extended the suspension into mid-July. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton).

Credit: Stephen B. Morton

Combined ShapeCaption
Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, left, has pressed Gov. Brian Kemp to extend a suspension on the state's gas tax through the end of the year, saving Georgia motorists about 29 cents per gallon. Kemp recently extended the suspension into mid-July. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton).

Credit: Stephen B. Morton

Credit: Stephen B. Morton

Suspending the gas tax means forgoing state and federal tax revenue that is used to maintain and improve roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects. And there’s no guarantee the savings will be passed on to consumers.

In Georgia, state officials expect the tax revenue from the growing economy to backfill the lost revenue from the gas tax. A pause on the federal gas tax could temporarily halt projects approved in the $1 trillion infrastructure law that Biden signed last year.

The national average for regular gas was $4.97 per gallon on Tuesday, according to AAA, driven up by a resurgence in energy use and fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In Georgia, the average was $4.46 a gallon, down slightly from a high of $4.49 last week.

A federal push to suspend the gas tax would have to overcome a potential Senate filibuster — and skepticism from legislative leaders.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the idea as a gimmick earlier this year, and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi questioned whether it would benefit consumers.

Still, lawmakers from both parties are under pressure to bring down the cost at the pump to provide relief to motorists as the White House struggles to address inflation ahead of midterm elections.

Republican Senate hopeful Herschel Walker’s allies have tried to pin the blame for the soaring costs on Warnock.

An outside group backing his campaign, 34N22, recently illustrated the tension by handing out $4,000 worth of gas vouchers to a long line of waiting motorists in a heavily Democratic area as volunteers waved signs saying “Warnock isn’t working.”

Warnock, meanwhile, has increased his pleas to Biden to support the gas tax holiday.

“It’s time for the White House to take action on this,” he said this week. “I’ve been calling to suspend the federal gas tax for months now. We’ve got to help folks save money at the pumps.”