By Christian Wade | The Center Square
New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan is breaking with Democratic colleagues and clashing with Republicans by pushing for a suspension of the federal gas tax.
Hassan, a Democrat seeking a second term in the November elections, filed a bill with Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly in February that calls for a temporary pause on the 18.4 cent per-gallon federal gas tax to give consumers relief at the pumps amid record high fuel prices.
The measure, which would suspend the tax until Jan. 1, 2023, faces an uphill battle on Capitol Hill where Democratic leaders have largely dismissed the idea.
But that hasn’t stopped Hassan from promoting her efforts in campaign videos and statements to New Hampshire news outlets.
“I’m taking on members of my own party to push a gas tax holiday and I’m pushing Joe Biden to release more oil reserves,” Hassan says in a recent 30-second TV spot. “That’s how we lower costs.”
A perfect storm of supply chain disruptions, high inflation and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have sent gasoline prices soaring to record levels, fueling calls for state leaders to help soften the financial hit to motorists and businesses.
Gas prices in New Hampshire were averaging about $4.20 per gallon this week, according to the American Automobile Association of the Northeast.
While Hassan’s push for relief at the pumps has put her at odds with others in the Democratic Party, it’s also prompted clashes with New Hampshire Republicans who backed away from a plan to cut the state’s 23.8 cent per-gallon gas tax.
State GOP lawmakers were considering a temporary suspension of the gas tax but walked back the plan amid concerns about the impact of the state’s bond ratings and other concerns.
Hassan’s campaign seized on the rejection of the plan, criticizing state Republican leaders including Senate President Chuck Morse, who is seeking the GOP nomination to challenge her in November.
“All of the Republicans running for U.S. Senate would have sided with Mitch McConnell and his allies today in blocking a gas tax holiday,” Kevin Donohoe, Hassan’s campaign manager, said in a recent statement. “While Senator Hassan is pushing to lower costs for New Hampshire families, her opponents are running to help Mitch McConnell block much-needed relief for Granite Staters at the gas pump.”
Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, has called Hassan’s calls for a federal gas tax holiday “a short-term gimmick” and criticized her for “supporting tax increases” as a lawmaker.
Morse has also fired back at the congresswoman and echoed claims that the gas tax holiday proposal was a “phony gimmick.”
Hassan, a former New Hampshire governor, defeated Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte in a narrow race in 2016 to win the seat.