Summing up Biden’s view of rising prices, Sen. Maggie Hassan (DN.H.) said: “They are slow to respond. People need a solution now. Hassan is facing stiff competition this fall.
The party’s gas tax flap is the latest sign of a disconnect between the White House and Hill Democrats over how to channel voter anger over inflation, which is now threatening the Senate and House majority. Democrats who once hoped that the cost of gas, food and rent would fall in the interim, are now demanding that Biden go beyond public confidence and consider price rises to be a full-blown financial crisis.
“I think we need more clarity. And we need to make it clear that this is our number one priority,” Rep. Elissa Slatkin (D-Mich.), Co-author of the gas tax holiday bill, said in February. That’s one of the key things. ”
White House officials insist they have long recognized the problem but say most of it is out of their control. Biden has warned for months that Russia’s sanctions on the invasion of Ukraine will have domestic consequences by squeezing oil supplies. Congressional Democrats passed a $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus-assisted law last year, which many experts say is heating up the economy, which exacerbates internal tensions.
The White House has also dropped Its initial view is that inflation is temporary; Biden’s entire domestic agenda is now centered around efforts to cool rising prices.
“I fully understand that gas tax leave alone will not solve the problem, but it will provide immediate relief for families,” Biden said Wednesday. “Now we are doing everything possible to reduce this pain in the pump.”
Some House Democrats can take issue with that statement. Last week, a group of White House top advisers trekked to the Capitol with a Caucus member to send a financial message. In the end, about half a dozen Democrats – led by a visibly angry delegate, Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) – lined up for a heated question-and-answer session, where several people sought answers beyond talking points, many in the room.
But for many such questions, the response was “We ask you,” according to participants who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.
One Democratic lawmaker who attended the meeting described the frustration after the White House decided to pivot on a gas tax holiday, lamenting that the president’s aides were “back to problem after problem.” Those members compared the Biden team’s method to ask Congress members whether or not the classic TV show “Friends”.
In March, the administration used its most important instrument to reduce gas prices by releasing oil from the nation’s strategic reserves. But with costs still rising and increasing pressure to recognize the urgency, White House officials are embarking on a revival of the gas tax holiday, which has called for the governor to suspend his own state-level taxes.
And Hassan was not impressed: “I think we should at least suspend the gas tax for the next year. So no, I think 90 days is not enough, ”he said.
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-RIZ.) Said, “There are more we can do, the more the administration should do.” The re-election of Kelly, Hassan, and Sense is the best hope for Democrats holding the Senate majority, with Rafael Warnock (D-Ga.) And Catherine Cortez Mosto (D-Nev.).
Other Democrats are more than willing to give the White House a try because high gas prices are one of the biggest political risks they face in the meantime – with little hope of real impact.
“The White House wants to do something,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Skeptical of the tax holiday, said of the timing. “It’s the only thing you can do that seems to be the solution.”
White House officials began reviewing the suspension of the gas tax in February, when Hassan, Kelly and others first introduced legislation that would pause the levy by the end of the year. But amid the economists ‘push and aides’ questions about whether it would make a difference for consumers, Biden refused to endorse the concept at the time.
Now that the White House has embraced it lately, some Democrats worry that it is part of the White House policy apparatus, which is too slow and indefinite to respond to emergency challenges.
Legislators hold that Biden has not made decisions on lifting tariffs on student debt relief and China, beyond pump prices. Democrats want a strong push from the White House to complete a bipartisan production bill that could now pass the Fourth of July break, a year after it was first passed by the Senate.
Then there’s Biden’s long-dead domestic policy package, which Sen last year. The president could not achieve that in his discussions with Joe Manchin (DW.Va.). On Wednesday, Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer met again to discuss the next path, the seventh time the pair have met in recent months.
The White House believes that a potential party-line bill to tackle climate change, taxes, drugs and deficit reduction will have a major impact on the party’s political fortunes.
In the interim, however, senior executives seem to be free to try almost anything – even if their own tactical views may seem contradictory at times.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will meet Thursday with CEOs of major oil companies billed at a session to hash out “how can we partner” with the industry. But White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre lowered the expectation that the meeting would yield immediate results, calling it a “first step.”
Meanwhile, Biden has been urging companies like Exxon to raise record profits, airing the rhetoric that progressives have spent months encouraging them to embrace the White House.
“If we don’t take immediate steps to get a real solution for people at gas stations … citizens will come to their senators and say: ‘I’m angry,'” said Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. (D-Ore.), Who is running for reelection. They prefer to target oil companies rather than short-term gas tax holidays.
The White House has yet to adopt policies such as the House-passed bill last month designed to curb oil and gas companies’ price increases.
Marianne Levine contributed to this report.