Infrastructure talks enter last-ditch stage as both Republicans and Democrats eye gas tax increase

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Republicans and Democrats are eyeing a potential increase to the gas tax as both parties enter a last-ditch effort to strike a bipartisan infrastructure deal.

The bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers includes Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Rob Portman of Ohio, as well as Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona; and Jon Tester of Montana. The group emerged after President Joe Biden pulled the plug on negotiations with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who had been Republicans’ chief negotiator.

Romney told Insider on Thursday that the new working group was weighing indexing the gas tax to inflation. The 18-cent levy hasn’t been raised since 1993. 

“It keeps it at the same value that it has today,” the Utah Republican said. 

The White House has previously said bumping up the gas tax was off limits given Biden’s pledge to not increase taxes for households earning under $400,000. But the idea gained some momentum among Democrats when Sen. Dick Durbin of Iowa, the second-ranked Democrat in the chamber, said he believed it “ultimately has to happen.”

“I look at it as a user fee. We pay taxes on gasoline because we want to drive our cars on safe roads,” Durbin told reporters.

Still, other Democrats in the group like Tester appeared noncommittal. “It’s not one of my favorite things, but we’ll see what the entire deal looks like,” he said in an interview. “I gotta see it in the context of everything, see what stays in and drops out.”

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Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, another Democrat in the group, declined to answer whether he supported it, reflecting the delicate state of the negotiations. “I actually think it’s better … until the cake is fully baked, to keep the ingredients quiet,” he told Insider.

Both parties remain far apart on the scope of an infrastructure bill and how to pay for it. It comes as other Republicans are signaling that climate provisions wouldn’t be included in their package. “If they’re looking for a line item that says ‘climate,’ they’re not going to see that,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said of Democrats.

A few Senate Democrats have stepped up their criticism of the bipartisan talks in recent days, warning that such talks risk omitting measures to combat climate change in an infrastructure deal. Another top Democrat threatened to withhold his vote if climate wasn’t sufficiently addressed.

“On a big infrastructure bill, to pass on climate altogether? No way!” Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, told Insider. “Think I’m blunt enough? No way.”

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Source:: Business Insider

      

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