Biden says he’s on the verge of decisions on gas tax holidays and student loans as he tries to tame costs
“I’m hoping to make a decision by the end of the week based on the data I’m looking for,” Biden told reporters by the sea in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, when asked if he was considering supporting a gas tax holiday.
Biden said he was also considering sending gas rebate cards back to Americans: “That’s part of what we’re considering, that’s part of the whole operation,” he said.
And when asked if he was close to voting on student debt relief and fulfilling one of his campaign promises, Biden said, “Yes.”
The White House has previously downplayed the prospect of mailing gas rebate cards directly to Americans because the program would be difficult to administer. But Biden seemed to imply the idea was still in play, declining to shut it out to reporters on the beach.
High prices and the prospect of a recession loom over Biden’s presidency and threaten Democrats’ political prospects in the November midterm elections.
But as waves broke near Rehoboth, Biden downplayed the risk of a recession as the Federal Reserve hikes interest rates to tame inflation.
Several lawmakers and governors have floated the idea of a gas tax holiday, encouraging Biden to get behind the idea. Others, including some Democrats, were more skeptical. And the idea has yet to gain significant traction in Congress, where a bill is pending but not put to the vote.
Over the weekend, US energy and treasury secretaries each said it was a worthy option, if not a panacea for high gas prices.
“It’s certainly one of those things that the President evaluates,” she added. “I know this has happened in many states as well. Honestly, the full range of tools is still being pressed. He’s been using the greatest tool he has, but he’s obviously very concerned about this continued upward pressure on prices.”
She said one challenge with temporarily suspending the tax, which is about 18 cents a gallon, is that “it funds the roads.”
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also said over the weekend that a gas tax exemption was “certainly worth considering”.
The administration’s so far lukewarm approach to supporting a federal gasoline tax stay reflects concern among some Democrats that it may not bring significant relief, particularly if retailers are raising the base price per gallon to make up the difference.
“I’m not a fan of gas tax exemptions. I think it’s kind of a gimmick, and at some point you have to undo it,” Bill Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “
Coincidentally, Biden told reporters a day later that he spoke to Summers that morning, who has criticized the government for its handling of inflation and warned that a recession may now be inevitable.
“Recession is not inevitable,” Biden said.
Biden said he’s confident Congress will take action to reduce the cost of Medicare and insulin — both items currently under negotiation — as well as new renewable energy investments.
He said major oil and gas CEOs would meet with members of his administration this week to discuss prices “so I can get an explanation of how they justify making $35 billion in the first quarter.”
However, he ruled out a meeting with the managers themselves: “No.”
And he criticized the companies for cutting back on refining.
“I want an explanation from them as to why they’re not refining more oil,” he said.