US President Joe Biden alongside former President Barack Obama during an event on the Affordable Care Act, the former President’s major legislative achievement, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, USA United, April 5, 2022.
Leah Millis | Reuters
Former President Barack Obama called opposition to a federal gas tax exemption “one of our proudest moments” during his 2008 campaign – but his Vice President, Joe Biden, thinks this type of vacation is much needed now that he is in charge at the White House.
President Biden’s desire for a three-month reprieve for customers from federal and gasoline taxes comes as the United States sees fuel prices soar, and the Democrat sees public approval ratings plummet less than four months from the midterm elections.
Whether Congress accepts Biden’s speech and sees it as a positive response from the electorate remains to be seen.
But his former boss Obama, in his bestselling 2020 memoir “A Promised Land,” touted the political benefits of opposing short-term financial relief for American drivers on the grounds that it would cause financial harm to more long term.
In fact, Obama noted that his blocking of the Democratic presidential nomination came on the heels of that decision in the spring of 2008.
At the time, Obama was locked in a primary battle with former New York senator Hillary Clinton, and as he came under fire following controversial sermons by his pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
“Then we got help from an unexpected quarterback,” Obama wrote.
“Gasoline prices had skyrocketed” and “nothing put voters in a bad mood like high gas prices,” he wrote.
The eventual Republican presidential nominee that year, Senator John McCain of Arizona, proposed a temporary suspension of the federal gas tax – just as Biden is currently doing – and “Hillary immediately endorsed the idea,” Obama wrote.
When asked by Obama’s campaign team what he meant on the issue, “I told them I was against it,” he wrote.
“While it had superficial appeal, I knew it would drain an already depleted federal highway fund, resulting in fewer infrastructure projects and fewer jobs,” Obama wrote.
“Based on my experience as a state senator from Illinois, where I had previously voted for a similar proposal, I was sure consumers wouldn’t see much benefit from it. In fact , gas station owners were just as likely to keep gas prices high and increase their own profits as they had to pass the three-cent-a-gallon savings on to motorists.”
Obama wrote that “somewhat to my surprise” his top campaign advisers agreed with him. And the next day, outside a gas station, he pitched his position to reporters, calling it a “serious long-term energy policy” that contrasted “with the typical Washington solution that McCain and Hillary were proposing,” he said. -he writes. .
Obama later wrote that he had “doubled down” on his argument after both McCain and Clinton tried to paint him as careless about working family finances, “shooting a TV commercial on the issue and playing it non-stop in the Indiana and North Carolina.”
“The easiest thing in the world for a politician is to tell you exactly what you want to hear,” Obama said at the time, calling the gas tax exemption a “trick.”
“It was one of our proudest moments, taking a tough stand without the benefit of the polls and in the face of pundits who thought we were crazy,” Obama wrote in his memoir.
“We started to see signs in the polling data that voters were buying our argument,” he wrote.
Soon after, Obama beat Clinton in the North Carolina primary by 14 percentage points and, “more surprisingly, we had achieved an effective tie in Indiana, losing by just a few thousand votes,” Obama wrote. .
While there would be half a dozen more primaries before the Democratic contest officially ends, “tonight’s results told us the race was pretty much over,” he wrote.
“I would be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States,” he wrote.
More recently, another leading Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, has repeatedly criticized the idea of a federal gas tax exemption.
In April, Pelosi called the vacation idea “good public relations,” but added, “There’s no guarantee that the economy, the federal tax cut, would be passed on to the consumer.”
A month earlier, Pelosi called the idea “very showbiz.”
Biden, who is due to speak on his proposed federal gas tax exemption on Wednesday afternoon, will ask states to suspend their own gasoline taxes.
There is currently an 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax on gasoline and a 24.4 cents per gallon federal tax on diesel fuel.