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Clinton Joins McCain in Criticizing Obama on Gas Tax

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) speaks at a news conference after a campaign event, April 28, 2008, at the Graham Fire Departmet in Graham, N.C. (Associated Press)

By Perry Bacon Jr. and Peter Slevin
GRAHAM, N.C. -- In the latest example of Sen. Barack Obama facing two opponents, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton today joined Arizona Sen. John McCain in criticizing Obama for not supporting a temporary suspension of the federal gas tax.

"Senator Obama opposes giving consumers a break from the gas tax," Clinton told a crowd at a Graham, N.C., rally, held at a fire station. "I understand that the American people need some relief."

McCain earlier this month proposed lifting the 18 cents per gallon gas tax, a proposal that would save consumers roughly $3.60 when filling up a 20-gallon gas tank. Clinton, who had already announced support for the idea, criticized McCain for not detailing a way to pay for his plan. The New York senator said she would pay for lifting the consumer tax by levying a tax on oil company profits, an approach McCain opposes.

Obama has said suspending the gas tax will do not much to reduce gas prices, warning that oil companies might simply raise their prices after the suspension of the tax, increasing their profits but not leading to prices reductions for consumers. "I don't think it's the best approach for us to take right now," Obama said in a press conference last week. "You don't know that the oil companies are going to pass on the savings to the consumers or whether they're just gonna, you're just gonna see a increase in prices, by the same amount that the gas tax goes down. And it would deplete the highway trust fund that we need for rebuilding our roads and our bridges."

Obama again criticized the idea today in N.C. as a "short-term quick fix that we can say we did something even though we're not really doing anything." He said the country could suspend the tax for six months and still not arrive at a long-term solution.

Obama predicted oil companies would raise prices "and you'll never see the savings."

"Keep in mind, the federal gas tax is about 5 percent of your total gas bill. Which means, if it last for three months, you're going to save about $25 or $30, or half a tank of gas," Obama said to laughs from a crowd of more than 5,000 supporters in Wilmington, N.C. "That's [McCain's] big solution.

"And he had the gall yesterday to tell me that obviously because I didn't agree with his plan, I must not be sympathetic to poor people," Obama went on. "This is at the same time he is proposing hundreds of millions of dollars of more tax breaks for corporate interests for the wealthiest Americans.

"He doesn't explain how it is that we are going to replace the highway trust fund -- that's where your gasoline tax goes, to rebuild roads and bridges and put people back to work right here in North Carolina."

By Web Politics Editor  |  April 28, 2008; 7:36 PM ET
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