US President Joe Biden has called on Congress to pass a three-month suspension of the federal gasoline tax to help combat record pump prices, as he scrambles to ease the cost of living crisis ahead of key mid-terms this November.
The White House hopes the measure will provide temporary relief for American families this summer and help stimulate economic activity across the country.
The President also urged states to temporarily suspend state fuel taxes, which are often higher than federal rates.
He will also challenge major oil companies to bring ideas on how to bring back idled refining capacity when they meet with his energy secretary later this week.
This follows record high prices at petrol pumps across the US this month, with fuel currently trading at near $5 per gallon – as soaring demand coincides with the loss of about one million barrels per day of processing capacity.
Biden is asking Congress to suspend the fuel tax through September, a move that will cost the Highway Trust Fund roughly $10bn in forgone revenue.
However, the proposed suspension of the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gasoline tax and 24.4 cent diesel tax would require congressional approval.
This likely makes Biden’s pitch symbolic as politicians from both sides of the aisle have raised concerns over the last-ditch tax suspension – despite the Democrat majority in the House of Representatives.
Biden’s latest moves also reflect a change of tack from an under-pressure head-of-state, who condemned Big Oil’s profits in a public address earlier this month, accusing ExxonMobil of “making more money than God.”
He has also previously criticised OPEC for not ramping up oil supplies, and pledged to flood the market with oil from US strategic reserves.
The President’s approval ratings in the polls have slipped below 40 per cent, casting a dark cloud over the Democrats’ chances of holding on to both the Senate and House of Representatives.