Dems leave Biden hanging on the gas tax

A lot of Americans liked Donald Trump’s policies but did not like him.

A lot of Americans, albeit fewer than before, still like Joe Biden, but don’t like his policies.

And it’s his policies that are dragging him down, even in die-hard Democrat Massachusetts.

Joe Biden’s attempt to temporarily suspend the federal gas tax is a case in point. He gets more support for his plan from Massachusetts Republicans than he does from fellow Democrats.

Hardly had he uttered the words calling for a suspension of the 18-cent a gallon tax in a feeble effort to deal with soaring gas prices — and help Democrats ward off a pending Republican takeover of Congress — then it was shot down by fellow Washington Democrats.

This included opposition from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.

And Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called Biden’s plan “a silly proposal that members of his own party have already shot down.”

Talk about dead on arrival. This plan was dead on delivery.

Opposition to the idea was based on the understanding that the loss tax revenue would have to be made up elsewhere, that it would provide only limited relief and that the oil companies would reap more profits.

President Barack Obama had called the idea “a gimmick” when he was president.

Adding to the president’s problem was his additional proposal that the states follow his lead and suspend state gas taxes as well.

This in Massachusetts would have meant a saving of 42 cents a gallon — 18 cents in federal taxes and 24 in the state gas tax.

While it was not much when gas is around $5 a gallon, it was at least something.

But this too landed with a thud, even in pro-Biden, heavily Democrat and progressive Massachusetts.

The only support Biden got for his plan was from Republicans, not Democrats.

House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka, both Democrats and both long opposed to suspending the state gas tax, also opposed Biden’s plan.

In a joint statement that set the tone for the Democrat-controlled Legislature, as well as the state Democrat Party, they said a suspension would provide little relief but “will mostly mean more money for oil companies.”

“This isn’t fair, and we are not interested in benefiting multinational corporations while our residents continue to feel pain at the pump,” they said. Without naming specifics, they added they would work “diligently to find ways to deliver direct relief to residents.”

In a strange twist, the only support Biden got for his gas tax relief proposal was from outgoing Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and the two Republicans running to succeed him, Geoff Diehl and Chris Doughty.

Attorney General Maura Healey, now the lone Democrat running for governor after state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz dropped out Thursday, has not issued any statement of support for Biden’s plan.

Baker, who has proposed $700 million in tax cuts, said, “There is more than enough funding available to suspend the gas tax, pass our tax relief plan and invest in Massachusetts’ future.”

Diehl, who led the successful 2014 referendum campaign against tying the state gas tax to inflation, said the levy “affects middle- and low-income families the most” and should be suspended.

Doughty, also in favor of suspension, challenged Healy to sign a petition calling for a hiatus in the collection of the state gas tax. She didn’t.

What is comes down to is that Biden has more support on the issue from leading Massachusetts Republicans than he does from leading Massachusetts Democrats. Who knew?

The Democrats still like Joe Biden, though, only now not so much.

Peter Lucas is a veteran Massachusetts political reporter and columnist.