(NewsNation) — President Joe Biden asked Congress on Wednesday to support him in ending the federal gas tax for three months, as prices continue to climb nationwide.
Biden’s hope is lawmakers will agree to pause the tax, which charges 18 cents per gallon for gasoline and 24 cents per gallon for diesel fuel, through the end of September, giving some relief to Americans at the pump.
The president also asked states to freeze their own gas taxes, three months after a coalition of governors called on the federal government to do the same thing as gas prices began to tick higher and higher.
Large oil companies and refineries were also in Biden’s crosshairs during his address.
“I call on the (oil) companies to pass every penny of this 18 cents reduction to the consumer; there is no time now for profiteering,” he said.
Last week, he called on them in a letter to stop emphasizing their huge profits and focus on producing more oil for the benefit of Americans suffering at the gas pump. He said profits have tripled for oil refineries since the war in Ukraine began.
Biden said he wanted “an explanation” why oil refineries were not producing more gas and urged them to work with his Cabinet to resolve the gas price issue.
It is unclear how much congressional support Biden will get in his bid to freeze the federal gas tax. Both Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have expressed skepticism in the past about suspending the federal gas tax.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm hinted in an interview with CNN on Sunday that a freeze of the gas tax could lead to challenges funding road construction and repair. Biden insisted these costs would be offset by his administration’s deficit reduction.
On the other hand, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said a suspension of the gas tax would be “worth considering” in an interview with ABC on Sunday.
Biden’s past efforts to cut gas prices — including the release of oil from the U.S. strategic reserve and greater ethanol blending this summer — have done little to produce savings at the pump, a risk that carries over to the idea of a gas tax holiday. Gas prices remained near $5 per gallon on Wednesday morning, according to AAA.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell mocked the idea of a gas tax holiday in a February floor speech. “They’ve spent an entire year waging a holy war on affordable American energy, and now they want to use a pile of taxpayers’ money to hide the consequences,” he said.
Energy companies are scheduled to meet Thursday with Granholm to discuss ways to increase supply.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.