Rep. Bill Shuster, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is reportedly one of the Republicans open to raising the gas tax. On Wednesday, Shuster said he intends to hammer out an infrastructure proposal with Rep. Peter DeFazio, the ranking Democrat on the committee, the Hill reported.
Still, many Republicans are reportedly wary of supporting the tax hike because it could be seen as undercutting the tax cuts they just delivered last year — their sole major legislative achievement since Trump's election.
Strategas Research Partners estimates that a 25-cent gas tax increase, combined with an anticipated 20-cent per gallon increase due to rising fuel prices, could wipe out 60 percent of the consumer savings from tax reform.
"Historically, U.S. presidents' approval ratings are tied to the retail price of gasoline and the President's approval rating is correlated to the number of lost/gained seats in a midterm election," Strategas said in a research note Thurday. "Republicans have gained tremendously in the polls since the enactment of the President's tax cut and higher gasoline prices could cut into those gains."
To be sure, polls have consistently shown for years that a majority of Americans support raising the federal gas tax — provided it pays for infrastructure improvements.
Still, Americans have proven sensitive to higher costs at the pump, and drivers are already seeing prices rise as the oil market recovers from a prolonged downturn, said Tom Kloza, global head of energy strategies at the Oil Price Information Service.
Consumers' tolerance for a hike might also depend on where they live. Drivers in states with high gasoline prices and state fuel taxes like Pennsylvania, California and Washington might be less willing to stomach the extra cost than places with lower burdens like Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri.
In Kloza's view, the proposal is more likely to see the light of day in 2019, when Republicans are beyond midterm elections and oil market conditions could make a fuel tax hike more palatable.
"It's responsible to fund spending. I don't think anyone argues about that, but gasoline and gasoline taxes are kind of a third rail in American politics," Kloza said. "I don't think that President Trump or members of Congress want to be voting on or authorizing or emphasizing a gasoline tax increase this year."
— CNBC's Lori Ann LaRocco contributed reporting to this story.