Biden says decision nearing on gas-tax pause, student debt

President Joe Biden said he’s aiming to decide this week whether to move to suspend the federal gasoline tax in a bid to ease the impact of soaring prices at the pump.

“Yes, I’m considering it,” Biden said while speaking to reporters on the beach in Delaware on Monday. “I hope I have a decision, based on data I’m looking for, by the end of the week.”

The move likely would require Congressional sign-off and could not be taken via executive action.

A customer holds a fuel nozzle at a gas station in San Francisco.

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

A White House official said conversations are ongoing and that the president has made clear he is willing to explore all options and hear all ideas that would help lower gas prices.

Biden also said his staff would meet with oil industry executives this week after he told US refiners in a letter last week that profit margins are unacceptable and called for “immediate action” to improve capacity.

“I want an explanation from them as to why they aren’t refining more oil,” he said Monday.

US gasoline prices have risen in recent weeks, and now average $4.98 a gallon, according to the AAA auto club, just shy of a record set last week. They’re a main driver of inflation, which has become a major political liability for Biden.

Some lawmakers have advanced plans to suspend the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gasoline tax — but that would risk siphoning money from the Federal Highway Trust Fund that pays for road and transit systems. And administration officials and top congressional Democrats caution there’s no guarantee the savings would be passed on to consumers.

Biden demurred on whether the administration was also considering issuing gas cards. Officials have acknowledged that was under consideration but signaled it’s now unlikely, citing a range of issues.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Sunday on ABC’s This Week that a gas-tax holiday should be on the table. “President Biden wants to do anything he possibly can to help consumers,” she said. “Gas prices have risen a great deal, and it’s clearly burdening households. So he stands ready to work with Congress, and that’s an idea that’s certainly worth considering.”

Biden was also asked if he was nearing a decision on whether to cancel some federal student debt by executive order, and simply replied that he was. Asked if another extension of repayments — which have not been required since he took office — is possible, he replied: “it’s all on the table right now.”

— With assistance from Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Jennifer Jacobs

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