WASHINGTON — Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday rejected a suspension of the federal gasoline tax as proposed by his party's presumptive presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain. Cheney said it would offer little help to consumers coping with gas prices around $4 a gallon.
The vice president's critique went further than President Bush's own comments on the idea, which appears dead anyway.
"I think it's a false notion, in the sense that you're not going to have much of an impact, given the size of the gasoline tax on the total cost of the gallon of gas," Cheney said when asked about the matter during a luncheon appearance. "You might buy a little bit of relief there, but it's minimal."
The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline on Monday was $3.98, according to a survey of stations by AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Of that total, the federal tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents per gallon.
Both McCain, R-Ariz., and a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, have proposed suspending the tax.
Bush has said he would consider any idea from Congress, but he was not enthusiastic about it.
Democratic leaders in Congress have shown little interest, too, and no votes are anticipated on the matter in the House or the Senate.
The gas tax is the main source of revenue for the Highway Trust Fund that provides grants for highway and bridge construction and repair.
Cheney said the broader solution is to expand the exploration of energy sources in the United States. Bush has long called for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil development, which is strongly opposed by environmentalists, most Democrats and a few moderate Republicans.
The vice president spoke in a Q&A session at the Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prize luncheon.
When asked about the scathing tell-all book by Bush's former press secretary Scott McClellan, Cheney said he hadn't read it and had no plans to do so. But he did pointedly comment when asked generally about former administration officials who write such books, saying, "I thought Bob Dole got it about right."
Dole said, among other things, that "there are miserable creatures" like McClellan in every administration who are spurred on by greed. Cheney's comment comes after White House press secretary Dana Perino has said the White House harbors "no ill feelings" toward McClellan.