Biden calls on Congress to suspend federal gas tax for 90 days

WASHINGTON, June 22 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday called on Congress to suspend federal gas tax for 90 days, as Americans are frustrated by the nation's soaring gas prices.

"By suspending the 18-cent gas tax -- federal gas tax for the next 90 days, we can bring down the price of gas and give families just a little bit of relief," Biden said in a speech at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building Wednesday afternoon.

"I call on the companies to pass this along -- every penny of this 18-cents reduction -- to the consumers. This is -- there's no time now for profiteering," said Biden.

US President Joe Biden (Photo: AP)

The U.S. federal government charges an 18-cent tax per gallon of gas that consumers purchase and a 24-cent tax per gallon of diesel they purchase. It's a tax that's been around for 90 years.

Biden's proposal came as the American Automobile Association (AAA) reported that the national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline remains elevated at 4.955 U.S. dollars on Wednesday, slightly down from the 5.014 dollars a week ago, but still much higher than the 3.069 dollars a year ago.

The president's effort is unlikely to gain traction with lawmakers, as even members of his own party - such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - could be reluctant to support it.

Pelosi, as well as some other Democrats, has argued that the tax savings might not go to consumers, but get passed to oil companies.

"Suspending the federal gas tax will not provide meaningful relief at the pump for American families, but it will blow a multi-billion-dollar hole in the highway trust fund putting funding for future infrastructure projects at risk," House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio said in a statement to The Hill.

Republicans, meanwhile, accused Democrats of playing "political games," arguing that the proposed measure is aimed at boosting Democrats' prospects and would soon expire after the midterm elections.

"President Biden is calling for another ineffective stunt to mask the effects of Democrats' inflation. The latest bad idea would barely put a dent in the soaring gas prices on his watch," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Twitter.

"Here is a better idea: What if Democrats stop waging war on affordable American energy?" McConnell said.

In his speech, Biden also called on states to either suspend the state gas tax as well or find other ways to deliver some relief, noting that state gas taxes average another 30 cents per gallon.

Biden also urged the industry to refine more oil into gasoline and to bring down gas prices, dismissing Republicans' claim that he is blocking production on federal lands.

Oil companies should use their profits to increase refining capacity rather than buy back their own stock, he added.