After touring the Detroit Auto Show yesterday with fellow lawmakers, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took one question yesterday: Why are Democrats not pursuing a federal gas tax hike, given its potential to cut carbon emissions and its support from auto industry players aiming to stoke demand for efficient cars?
Well, there certainly has been advocacy for such a position. It does not, certainly, have a majority in the Congress of the United States at this time. So we want to approach this in a way that is comprehensive, that certainly keeps in mind of concerns of the consumer, the concerns of the industry, and of the environment. This is not to say one idea is better than another — it’s just to say that at the present time, there are other initiatives that we have.
Pelosi added that she had met earlier in the day with Debbie Stabenow, one of Michigan's two Democratic senators, to discuss the climate bill pending in the upper chamber of Congress. Stabenow is a vigilant protector of her state's auto industry and last year signaled that she ultimately would have voted no on cap-and-trade legislation.
"[W]e’re hopeful that some of the initiatives that are in that [climate] legislation — when it passes and is signed into law — will address some of the same concerns that a gas tax would," Pelosi said.
But for now, her answer should be considered equally relevant to the stalemate over the next long-term transportation bill. Without congressional willingness to pay for the legislation, through a gas tax increase or similar new charge, it's unlikely to come up until next year.