Republicans laughed when Biden suggested Wednesday that federal taxes on diesel and gasoline be suspended for three months. Many Democrats also wondered why it took him so long to do this.
The concept has been subject to many variations over the past year. Governors are the ones leading these changes. Ron DeSantis proposed canceling Florida’s gas tax back in November. Gavin Newsom suggested the unusual idea of giving debit cards to Californians as a way to offset rising costs. In March, Brian Kemp, in perhaps the most nakedly political move of all, suspended Georgia’s gas tax through May 31 — just days after his primary.
Four Democratic senators facing tough re-election bids — Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Mark Kelly of Arizona and Raphael Warnock of Georgia — called in February for suspending the federal gas tax. The time was a moment when their political aides tried to make Republicans look bad.
Biden might just be trying to achieve this: persuading Mitch McConnell – always a useful foil in Senate – to reject his idea. This will allow the White House and Republicans both to blame Republicans for opposing any economic relief for Americans without cash.
Zolan Kanno Youngs and Lydia DePillis both confirmed that Biden requested Congress to grant Americans the right to vote in his Wednesday speech. “just a little bit of breathing room” by lifting the federal taxes — about 18 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24 cents per gallon of diesel — through the end of September, shortly before the fall midterm elections.
“I fully understand that the gas tax holiday alone is not going to fix the problem,”According to the president “But it will provide families some immediate relief.”
McConnell quickly dismissed the president’s call for suspending the tax as “silly,”Noting that most Senate Democrats are skeptical about the idea. Privately, however, many Republican strategists voiced concern about McConnell’s misreading of the moment.
It can take a while to get used to the idea.
Politicians tend to criticize tax-relief tricks that are motivated by politics, asserting they don’t create the right type of incentives.
According to climate experts, the government needs to discourage the use fossil fuels rather than subsidize them. Economists say that prices are meant to be a message to the market and that tinkering with them could lead to unpredictable distortions. Roads and highways are funded often through gas taxes. Therefore, the revenue required must be generated from another source. There’s no such thing as a free off-ramp.
The politics, however, are another matter. What’s most puzzling to many Democratic and Republican strategists is why the White House waited so long to try this particular gambit. One Republican operative said it didn’t exactly require Nostradamus to figure out.
A Virginia case study
The lessons of not taking surging gas and grocery prices as a dire threat to Democrats’ political fortunes ought to have been driven home after last year’s marquee election: the Virginia governor’s race.
Glenn Youngkin (a former executive in private equity and Republican candidate for the contest) complained via Twitter in July that Virginia’s gas tax had increased by 136 percent over the previous years. Democrats mocked Youngkin’s comments. “dishonest, false, cynical, misleading, irresponsible and stupid on pretty much every level.”
Youngkin defeated Terry McAuliffe to become governor in that fall’s general election. He also stated that tax “makes it more expensive for Virginians to go to work, run errands and visit loved ones.”
Youngkin later floated a three-month suspension of Virginia’s gas tax of 26 cents per gallon, though he’s still wrangling with the State Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, over the proposed move.
In addition, he organized events at stations throughout the state that highlighted prices that seem to be quaintly low in retrospect.
McAuliffe derided Youngkin’s various proposed tax cuts, which added up to $3.2 billion, as “crazy.”
In a moment when gasoline prices have increased, it seems that tax reductions make good politics. AAA reported that a gallon gasoline cost $3.07 an hour in America last year. Today, it’s $4.96.
Virginia Democrats now have a dilemma. Do they support their state’s refusal to stop the gas tax? Or do they reverse course and embrace Biden’s stance on freezing the federalGas tax It’s a difficult needle to thread.
Youngkin’s former ad maker, Will Ritter of the firm Poolhouse Strategies, expressed Democrats’ conundrum in the new argot of political campaigns: a two-panel memeDrake shared this tweet.
The top panel shows the Canadian rapper raising his disapprovalful hand. “Youngkin suggests a gas tax suspension.”
The lower panel shows Drake smiling big. “Biden suggests a gas tax suspension.”
The Tom Leonard effect
But the most politically effective move, Youngkin’s advisers say, was his proposal to eliminate the state’s 2.5 percent grocery tax.
The idea emerged from the campaign’s early skull sessions, as the top strategists were seeking to define the major themes of the race. They knew that if they focused on local issues and avoided the national themes that the McAuliffe campaign was eager to discuss, they would have a shot at overcoming Democrats’ baseline advantage of roughly 10 percentage points in the state.
Surprisingly, polling showed that Virginians responded most strongly to messages about the possibility of repealing the grocery tax. It is an issue not even on the national radar.
It was a eureka moment.
Youngkin’s team found a sympathetic grocery store owner, Tom Leonard, and secured his permission to film an ad in his wood-paneled store in Henrico County, in the suburbs northwest of Richmond.
This was the ideal backdrop to Youngkin’s down-to-earth message, which has been valued at almost $400 million.
Motion graphics superimposed on the scene showed prices on signs, written in Leonard’s folksy font and instantly recognizable to locals, flipping downward — thanks, presumably, to the would-be governor’s intervention.
Youngkin, who has repeatedly used the store to perform, returned there last week for the official signing of the state budget. There, he attacked Democrats for not advancing his tax-cutting agenda.
In late October, when Barack Obama visited Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond to try to lift McAuliffe’s candidacy, Youngkin held a rally of his own in a field near Tom Leonard’s store, drawing a large crowd.
That’s when Youngkin’s advisers knew for certain, they said, that the race was most likely theirs.
“You can’t run ads telling me you’re a regular ol’ hoops-playing, dishwashing, fleece-wearing guy, but quietly cultivate support from those who seek to tear down our democracy,” Obama told the audience in Richmond, referring to Donald Trump and other figures that Youngkin kept at arm’s length throughout the campaign.
As it turns out, Youngkin could do exactly that — and he did.
How to Read
In the case of sedition against the Proud Boys (the far-right group which led the attack on Jan. 6, 2001, at the Capitol), federal prosecutors joined hands with defense attorneys to ask for a delay. They cited the House select committee hearings. These parallel inquiries are now closed. “bumped into each other,” Alan Feuer reports.
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