Biden says he’s closing in on decisions on gas tax exemption and student loans as he tries to rein in costs

“I hope to have a decision based on the data that I am looking for by the end of the week,” Biden told reporters by the sea in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, when asked if he was considering backing a gas tax exemption.

such pause in the federal tax of 18.3 cents per gallon it would require Congress to act, and so far there has been little traction among lawmakers on the idea. But the administration is eager to find areas of relief for American consumers facing skyrocketing gasoline prices as summer begins. The national gas average on Monday was just under $5 a gallon.

Biden said he is also weighing whether to back sending gas rebate cards to Americans: “That’s part of what we’re looking at, it’s part of the whole operation,” he said.

And asked if he was close to deciding to forgive student debt, fulfilling one of his campaign promises, Biden said: “Yes.”

The array of options currently being debated in the White House reflects the behind-the-scenes urgency to find ways to ease the rising costs to Americans. Biden has implored his team to look at areas where it takes action to reduce financial burdens as the price of gasoline, food and other goods soar.
Also under active consideration: easing certain tariffs in China, which could lower the cost of some consumer goods.

The White House has previously downplayed the possibility of sending gasoline rebate cards directly to Americans because the program would be difficult to administer. But Biden seemed to indicate the idea was still up for grabs and refused to dismiss it to reporters on the beach.

High prices and the prospect of a recession loom over Biden’s presidency, threatening Democrats’ political prospects in November’s midterm elections.

However, as waves broke near Rehoboth, Biden downplayed the risk of a recession as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates in a bid to rein in inflation.

Several lawmakers and governors have floated the idea of ​​a gas tax exemption, encouraging Biden to back the idea. Others, including some Democrats, have been more skeptical. And the idea has yet to gain significant traction in Congress, where a bill is pending but has yet to be voted on.

Over the weekend, the US Treasury and Energy secretaries said it was a good option, though not a panacea for high gas prices.

“It’s one of the tools,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“It is certainly one of the things that the president is evaluating,” he added. “I know this is what’s been happening in a lot of states as well. Honestly, the whole range of tools is still being pushed. He’s used the biggest tool he’s got, but he’s obviously very concerned about this continued upward price pressure.” .

She said one challenge in temporarily suspending the roughly 18-cent-per-gallon tax was that it “funds highways.”

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also said over the weekend that an exemption from the gas tax was “certainly worth considering.”

The administration’s so far lukewarm approach to supporting a suspension of the federal gas tax reflects concerns by some Democrats that it won’t provide significant relief, particularly if retailers increase the base price per gallon to make up the difference.

“I’m not a fan of the gas tax exemption. I think it’s kind of a gimmick, and eventually you have to reverse it,” Larry Summers, President Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “

As it happens, Biden told reporters a day later that he had spoken that morning with Summers, who criticized the administration for its approach to inflation and warned that a recession may now be inevitable.

“There is nothing inevitable about a recession,” Biden insisted.

Biden said he was confident in congressional action to lower the costs of Medicare and insulin, both items now under negotiation, as well as new investments in renewable energy.

He said top oil and gas CEOs will meet with members of his administration this week to discuss prices “so you can get an explanation of how they justify making $35 billion in the first quarter.”

But he ruled out meeting with executives himself: “No.”

And he criticized companies for cutting back on refining.

“I want an explanation from them as to why they are not refining more oil,” he said.

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