A renewed push by some Democrats for an increase in the federal gas tax to replenish the Highway Trust Fund drew a frosty reception Thursday from Speaker John A. Boehner — though the Ohio Republican stopped short of ruling the idea out.
Both Boehner and the top-ranking Democrat in the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, were asked Thursday about an increase in the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal gas tax after the National Republican Campaign Committee sought to make a gas tax increase a political liability for Democrats.
" I’ve never voted to raise the gas tax. Funding the highway bill is critically important, it is a priority for this year. How we will fund it — we’re going to have to work our way through it,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said at his weekly press conference.
In the Senate, there is a Democratic proposal to raise the gas tax by 12 cents over the next two years, an idea that some Republicans in the upper chamber have said they would consider.
Boehner demurred as to whether he and other House Republicans were actively eyeing the tax as a means to keep the trust fund solvent, instead saying Democrats had not been able to get the votes necessary for the increase in the past.
As for whether a gas tax could be part of a compromise deal to lower income taxes, Boehner said, "There’s a lot of ideas. We’ve got to find a way to deal with America’s crumbling infrastructure, and we need to do it in a long term program that is, in fact, funded.”
During her own press conference, Pelosi, D-Calif., said raising the gas tax while prices are low is the best time to do it, but that she would not consider such a tax increase as part of a compromise lowering income taxes. Gas prices have dropped in recent months and the national average has dipped to less than $2.20 per gallon, according to AAA .
“What I would be interested in seeing is something serious, not something showbiz, which would be, 'How do you relate the gas tax to the highway trust fund?' That’s the relationship that is real," she said. "That’s where we need to have. If there is to be an increase in the gas tax that’s where those resources should be used."
The NRCC also questioned whether Rep. John Delaney, D-Md. — who has called for creating a long-term financing, entity the American Infrastructure Fund, to address the highway shortfall — supports a gas tax hike.
"Our country is still burdened by Obamacare’s impact on the economy and 6 years of President Obama’s failed leadership. The last thing we need is to raise taxes on the American people — especially the middle class," the statement reads. "Does John Delaney agree with his liberal Washington colleague that the gas tax should be raised? His constituents deserve to know whether or not he wants them to pay more at the pump."
Correction Jan. 9, 4:32 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported that Delaney supports an increase in the gas tax. The Maryland congressman has called for corporate tax changes to replenish the highway fund.
The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.