Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Provision strikes language that would have allowed foreign steel to be labeled as Made in America.

If something is Made in China, it should be labeled as Made in China.

That’s the main takeaway of an amendment to a funding bill that passed the House Appropriations Committee via voice vote on Wednesday. It’s the wonky sort of thing that crops up on Capitol Hill every once in a while that doesn’t get a lot of media attention — but is hugely important to American manufacturing workers and companies.

Here’s what went down.

House Appropriations members were considering a funding bill for the Interior Department, which shells out your tax dollars for water infrastructure projects. Language had been inserted into that bill to allow steel and iron products made overseas to undergo minimum processing here and then be considered American-made.

Those foreign products (made predominantly from materials like steel and iron) then would have qualified under Buy America preferences for projects receiving federal funding. Not only would this have been unfair to American workers and companies, it also would have meant that as much as 90 percent of each taxpayer dollar spent on such materials would be sent overseas to places like China or Russia.

Enter Reps. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) and Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), who teamed up on an amendment to strike the harmful language from the bill. Thankfully, the appropriations panel did the right thing and approved the amendment.

“We have a responsibility to see that American taxpayer dollars support American jobs,” Visclosky said after the vote. “I am pleased that the Committee approved this Buy America amendment that ensures the use of American iron and steel.”

Astute readers of this blog know that Buy America provisions are hugely important (and extremely popular — 91 percent of voters support Buy America). By giving American companies and workers the first shot at procurement opportunities such as water infrastructure projects, we create jobs and ensure taxpayer dollars are invested here in the United States.

But it also means that infrastructure projects can be better managed. One only has to look at the boondoggle of the Bay Bridge Project to understand the disaster that happens when officials opt to use foreign steel on a major infrastructure project.