Rep. Joseph L. Fisher, who has thousands of automobile-commuting constituents in Northern Virginia, actively supports a proposed 4-cents-a gallon extra tax on gasoline and has voted to eliminate the federal income tax deduction for state gasoline taxes.
Fisher, a two-term Democrat, isn't worried. He said he believes most people are serious about licking the energy problem.
"While we're trying to discourage gasoline usage, it makes no sense to reward taxpayers for buying and using more gasoline," Fisher said in an interview.
Fisher and another junior member of Congress from the Washington suburbs, Rep. Newton I. Steers Jr. (R-Md.). have played highly visible roles in deliberations of the special House Energy Committee.
Steers is one of only three freshmen on the 40-member panel that was responsible for putting together various energy proposal for an added 4-cent gasoline tax - one of the most controversial amendments that will be offered by Energy Committee Democrats when the bill is acted upon - Steers is an opponent.
Fisher said he supports a proposal made in the Energy Committee to use the proceeds of the added tax "to help solve the bloody problem.
"Of the 4 cents, 1 1/2 cents would support mass transit and car pool programs, 2 cents would go for research and development on new energy sources and the remaining half cent would be distributed to states to help take up the financial slack from reduced gasoline sales.
This "establishes a program I can be comfortable with in talking to people" in the 10th Congressional District, which includes Arlington. Loudoun and northern Fairfax counties, Fisher said.
In another congressional role, as a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. Fisher voted to eliminate the deduction that individuals may take on their federal income tax returns for the money they spend on state gasoline taxes. The average taxpayer gets a $50 deduction. Fisher said.
That, too, is a move designed to discourage the use of gasoline.
During deliberations on the energy bill, the Energy Committee's Democratic caucus approved an amendment by Fisher to extend by two years, until the end of 1984, the period of eligiblity for tax credits on homeowner investment in insulation and in solar wind technology.
Rep Richard Bolling (D-Mo.), a senior member of the Energy Committee and a leading House liberal, said Fisher has gained congressional prestige far beyond his slim seniority.
Noting that Fisher is an economist, Bolling told a reporter he "has used his professional skills in a way that he has become very influential here in a short time . . . He is very effective."
Steers, while generally supporting the foredoomed Republican alternative to the Democrats' Energy Committee bill, has served notice that he will cross party lines - as he already has done within the committee - on some issues.
For example, Steers was the only GOP member of the panel to support a Democratic proposal dealing with the role of private utility companies in installing home insulation.
Steers said he opposes a higher gasoline tax because of the burden it would put on lower-income people.
Several weeks ago, Steers said, he spoke at a meeting held in a high school auditorium in Montgomery County (his Eighth District comprises most of the county), and was confronted by an angry school janitor.
"You're not going to vote for that . . . tax, are you?" the janitor asked, according to Steers, adding that he commuted a long distance to work at odd hours and could not afford higher costs.
"This is one area where there is no conflict between my parochial interests and my statemanlike national interests," Steers quipped.
Steers said he won support on the Energy Committee to offer two amendments to the pending bill when it reaches the House floor. One will deal with household insulation, the other with public education on energy conservation.
Rep. John B. Anderson (R-Ill.), the senior GOP member of the Energy Committee, said "Steers performed very well, especially when he had to play catch-up ball" after being hospitalized for 35 days withg a serious heart infection.
"Newt missed quite a number of our briefings, but be came back and was active during deliberations." Anderson said.
Washington is one of only two metropolitan areas in the country, (the other is New York City) with two members serving on the Energy Committee.
A second Marylander, freshman Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D) of Baltimore, also serves on the Energy panel. She successfully offered an amendment authorizing $65 million to help local governments prepare energy conservation plans for municipal buildings.