“I’m hoping to make a decision based on the data,” Biden said. He stopped to speak to reporters as he and his family strolled down the beach near his Delaware vacation home.
As part of a gas tax holiday, all taxes on the price of gas would be temporarily scrapped, offering some relief to buyers. It comes at a price — gas taxes fund roads, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.
Suspension of the tax on gas prices would require action by Congress, putting the fate of the holiday in the hands of an equally divided Senate. Republicans have dismissed gas tax holidays as political stunts, instead calling for new regulations that would open the door to more drilling.
Even some Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (California), are skeptical and have expressed concerns that the oil giants may not pass the savings on to consumers.
Some states are taking matters into their own hands. New York, Florida, Georgia and Connecticut have introduced gas tax exemptions, while Illinois delayed a planned increase in its tax rate.
On Monday, Biden also told reporters that members of his team will meet with executives from major oil companies this week to demand an explanation of “how they justify making $35 billion in the first quarter.” He said he doesn’t plan to sit down with the CEOs himself.
While the president has repeatedly blamed the Russian invasion of Ukraine for the price hikes at the pump, he has also chided the country’s oil majors for not doing enough to lower prices. In letters sent out last week, Biden condemned oil companies for squeezing “historically high profit margins” from their refineries.
“In times of war, refinery profit margins that are well above normal and passed directly to American families are unacceptable,” Biden wrote. “Your companies need to work with my government to propose concrete, short-term solutions to deal with the crisis.”
He also threatened emergency powers if companies don’t cut prices.
The companies seemed unmoved, according to a response from ExxonMobil, which insisted it had invested billions to increase its refining capacity.
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The government has implemented several strategies to reduce costs at the pump, including releasing oil from the US reserve.
Biden’s statements Monday echoed what Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said during an interview Sunday on ABC News’ This Week.
“It’s an idea worth considering,” Yellen said of tax exemptions.
Biden, she said, wants to do “whatever he can to help consumers” and is “ready to work with Congress” to participate in a tax holiday.
Granholm also agreed on Sunday that a tax holiday was possible, but reminded viewers that the gas tax suspension could affect the country’s infrastructure.
“Part of the challenge with the gas tax, of course, is that it funds the roads, and we just launched a big infrastructure bill to help fund the roads,” she said. “If we get rid of the gas tax, that takes away the funding that Congress just passed to do this.”
On Monday, the president also appeared to hint that his administration was considering sending Americans gas rebate cards that would temporarily help defray gas bills for millions of people.
“That’s part of what we’re considering,” Biden told reporters when asked about the cards. “It’s part of the whole operation.”
Last week, the Washington Post reported that White House officials are giving the idea of gas rebate cards a second look after originally proposing them months ago. But aid workers noted that the chip shortage in the US would make it difficult to produce enough discount cards, two people familiar with the matter said.
White House officials also worry there is no way to prevent consumers from using those cards for purchases other than gas, according to another person familiar with the discussions. Even if the government accepts the proposal, it will likely require congressional approval and would stand a long chance with lawmakers wary of spending more money.
Tony Romm, Jeff Stein, and Tyler Pager contributed to this report.