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Congressional lawmakers are proposing measures that include a suspension of the federal gasoline tax to stave off soaring prices at the pump, and are considering other remedies to mitigate inflationary price hikes as Capitol Hill leaders work against the clock on another government funding deadline.
Senate approval of House-passed legislation that would guarantee federal agency funding through March 11 seems likely. The government is operating with a funding authority that will expire on February 18. Senate leaders insisted a federal shutdown could be avoided. Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.) announced procedural votes on the short-term funding measure to pave the way for final review of the bill before the deadline.
Amid the debate, partisan disputes centered on vaccine mandates and a constitutional amendment on balanced federal budgets.
Separate from the funding negotiations, Democratic leaders in the Senate have signaled the possibility of considering legislation next month aimed at reducing costs for those affected by inflation. Legislative proposals include monitoring the cost of insulin, assessing monopoly corporate structures and suspending the federal gasoline tax.
The senses. Maggie Hassan (DN.H.) and Mark Kelly (D-Arizona) recently introduced the Gas Price Relief Act to suspend the federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents per gallon until Jan. 1 2023.
“This legislation is intended to ensure that we get relief from Granite Staters at the gas pump. People are feeling a real pinch on consumer staples, and we need to do more to help with rising costs, especially the price of gas,” Hassan said. “We need to keep thinking creatively about how we can find new ways to cut costs, and this bill would do just that, making a tangible difference for workers and families.”
White House officials have not ruled out backing a fuel tax exemption. Press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on February 16, “We always have an open dialogue with members of Congress, and all options remain on the table.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, called on his colleagues to support both short-term financing legislation as well as a fiscal year 2022 bill, known as the omnibus. The omnibus is designed to keep agencies operating until September 30. As he said, “We have a responsibility to make the tough choices about how to invest in the future of the American people. A continuous year-long resolution is unacceptable.
“I look forward to working with my dear friends [Appropriations] vice-president [Richard] Shelby, [House] Chair [Rosa] DeLauro, and [House] ranking member [Kay] Granger over the next four weeks to reach a final agreement and pass a bipartisan vote [fiscal 2022] omnibus spending bill by March 11.
Last year, Senate Democrats introduced legislation for fiscal year 2022 to provide the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration with $288 million for operations and safety programs. For the agency’s security grant program, the senators proposed $393.8 million. The Senate’s comprehensive bill would provide $29.1 billion in discretionary budget powers to the U.S. Department of Transportation, an increase of $3.8 billion from the level enacted for fiscal year 2021. The House passed a transportation funding measure for fiscal year 2022.
Freight and passenger transportation stakeholders are asking Congress to approve the fiscal year 2022 omnibus. Such approval, the groups say, would ensure the viability of certain provisions enacted in the Investment and Jobs Act in $1 Trillion Infrastructure, or IIJA.
“We urge Congress to honor the promise of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and provide funding levels at least equal to IIJA investments in public transportation and passenger rail. for fiscal year 2022,” said American Public Transportation Association President and CEO Paul Skoutelas. “These historic investments will enable our communities to provide access to opportunity and create family jobs, advance equity, fight climate change and meet growing and evolving mobility demands.