Pelosi: Gas Tax Hike Doesn’t Have Majority Support in Congress

After touring the Detroit Auto Show yesterday with fellow lawmakers, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took one question yesterday: Why are Democrats not pursuing a federal gas tax hike, given its potential to cut carbon emissions and its support from auto industry players aiming to stoke demand for efficient cars?

large_080325_nancy_pelosi_quell_infighting.JPGHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (Photo:

Pelosi’s answer was a lengthy one, but here’s how she began:

Well, there certainly has been advocacy for such a position. It does not,
certainly, have a majority in the Congress of the United States at this
time. So we want to approach this in a way that is comprehensive, that
certainly keeps in mind of concerns of the consumer, the concerns of the
industry, and of the environment. This is not to say one idea is better
than another — it’s just to say that at the present time, there are other
initiatives that we have.

Pelosi added that she had met earlier in the day with Debbie Stabenow, one of Michigan’s two Democratic senators, to discuss the climate bill pending in the upper chamber of Congress. Stabenow is a vigilant protector of her state’s auto industry and last year signaled that she ultimately would have voted no on cap-and-trade legislation.

"[W]e’re hopeful that some of the
initiatives that are in that [climate] legislation — when it passes and is signed into
law — will address some of the same concerns that a gas tax would," Pelosi said.

But for now, her answer should be considered equally relevant to the stalemate over the next long-term transportation bill. Without congressional willingness to pay for the legislation, through a gas tax increase or similar new charge, it’s unlikely to come up until next year.

  • Why is it that democrats, with a majority can never pass anything, but republicans can pass everything they want?

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    I don’t think that is the case jass, though I feel that way sometimes. The structure of the Federal government gives a lot of power to low population areas and the Democrats (especially the Obamistas) need those people to establish their majority. The gas-powered flatland is reflexively opposed to increased gas taxes, so is the oil patch, maybe not a majority themselves but subtracting them from the Democratic contingent eliminates their majority. I think the unspoken issue here is industrial policy. We have none…other than low gas prices. We depend on building more cars to employ our industrial sector and have since the 30s. We depend on low gas prices to drive that. If we had some other industrial center of gravity perhaps the rust belt could be turned against the oil patch, since the rust belt is largely Democratic and the oil patch is largely Republican. The Democrats need Louisiana, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan and the other industrial midwest states. Even upstate New York has historically been very dependent on automobile manufacture. Lots of empty plants now.

  • JK

    With 10% unemployment and very high anti-incumbent feelings, this is not a great year to advocate for higher gas taxes. Some reputable analysts believe the Dems could lose the House. Very few Dem incumbents want to run into this headwind as the candidates who raised your gas tax. Objectively, with prices low, this is the perfect time for a gas tax hike, but as Pelosi says, it ain’t going to happen. My guess is that the most likely form of carbon pricing to hit motorists will be the oil companies passing on the costs of emissions from their refineries — if there is a big climate treaty. A big if.

  • zach

    1. If the economy is bad, it’s a bad time for a gas tax hike because people are hurting.
    2. If the economy is good, you don’t want to rock the boat, so it’s also a bad time for a gas tax hike.

    Where would we spend these new found billions? Could we spend some of it in the heartlands, the rust belt? I get for about each 7 cents a gallon tax increase around a billion dollars a year in money to be spent. Please correct those numbers if you’ve got better.

  • Shemp

    You are not going to see a gas tax increase in 2011 (or anytime in this presidential term) because the 2012 presidential campaign will get underway in Dec. 2010.


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