Senate Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Pete Domenici today said a gas tax holiday this summer proposed by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., will do little to curb the soaring record prices at the pump. The presumptive GOP presidential nominee has proposed legislation to suspend the 18-cent-per-gallon gas tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day as part of his broader economic plan. But Domenici warned today it would not address the larger problem of U.S. dependence on oil, which is what is keeping gas prices so high. “You might not get the whole benefit of it because in a month or so the price might be up anyway, because the price of crude oil going up,” Domenici said at an event sponsored by The Energy Daily. “I’m willing to listen but I don’t believe it will solve the problem and I don’t think it will do much for the American people.”
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., has signaled general support for McCain’s idea, while fellow Democratic presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois has not. McCain’s plan would funnel money from the general treasury to make up for the lack of gas tax revenue going into the federal highway trust fund. McCain’s bill has eight co-sponsors, including Sens. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and John Warner, R-Va., two of the lead sponsors of global warming legislation awaiting Senate floor action in early June.
Domenici was one of the first senior Republican senators to say global warming is a serious problem, but he cast doubt today on the Lieberman-Warner bill, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-and-trade program. “I don’t think the bill is going to go anywhere unless it is dramatically altered or amended,” Domenici said. “I think a lot of Republican senators and I think of late a few Democratic senators are finding that a cap-and-trade plan might not be the best way to approach the solution.” He added that carbon sequestration and other technology “might do us an equally good job in 10, 15 years” instead of a cap-and-trade approach, which he said would hurt the economy. The Bush administration also opposes the Senate bill, but all three presidential candidates agree on the general concept of a greenhouse gas cap and trade bill.
Domenici, a leading congressional advocate for expanding nuclear production, said possible amendments to the June global warming bill could single out nuclear energy as an important means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, although he is not working on language himself. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, however, has said she will pull the bill from consideration if amendments are offered that she views would weaken the proposal. Boxer has been an opponent of expanded nuclear production. Senate Majority Leader Reid Tuesday said “virtually all the Democrats” will support the Lieberman-Warner bill, but that nine Republicans are needed to get the 60 votes to begin and limit debate on it. “I don’t know if we can get nine Republicans, but we’ll certainly try,” he said.
This article appears in the April 26, 2008, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.