Clinton chides Obama over gas tax holiday

Politics,Bill Sammon

Convinced she has seized on a winning issue, Hillary Clinton campaigned hard for a gas tax holiday on Tuesday, portraying Barack Obama as indifferent to the soaring cost of fuel.

"He does not want to do anything about it," Clinton told Fox News about her fellow Democrat. "Senator Obama wants you to pay the gas tax this summer. I want the oil companies to pay it out of their record profits."

Obama countered that Clinton was offering motorists a mere "pretense of relief" from high prices.

"I hear people pretending that they’re providing some relief, where, at best, you get 30 cents a day," Obama told MSNBC. "But more likely the oil companies would jack up prices to match whatever the elimination of the gas tax was."

Clinton said that unlike Republican John McCain, who also wants a gas tax holiday, she would pay for the cut by taxing the windfall profits of oil companies. But few expect passage of a windfall tax in time for the proposed suspension of the 18-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax, which would begin at the end of this month and last through Labor Day.

Nonetheless, Clinton advisers made clear the gas tax holiday was contingent on enactment of a windfall tax. They insisted such a scenario could come to pass in the next few weeks.

"Look, this is how policy gets made in this country," Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson told reporters in a conference call. "Candidates for office put forward a set of views. People respond to them. And the American political system responds to the people."

Wolfson said election results from today’s Democratic primaries in North Carolina and Indiana will provide "a very good indication of how voters are responding to the various sides in this debate."

Instead of a windfall tax, Obama proposed a second economic stimulus package.

 "That would be real relief," he said, "much more likely to pass than the windfall profit tax scheme that Senator Clinton’s been talking about."

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