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Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Whatever happened to Buy America?

It's not exactly a stretch to say there aren't many issues that have potential for bipartisanship these days. But after President Trump took office in January 2017, there was one that seemed to unite Washington: Infrastructure.

The Donald made infrastructure investment a key part of his presidential campaign platform, famously pledging to spend $1 trillion to rebuild and repair America's roads, bridges, railways, ports, airports, and water systems. Notably, Trump also said he would make sure our infrastructure would be built in the United States — the policy behind the first part of his infamous "Buy American, Hire American" slogan.

And despite everything else going on, Trump found strong support for Buy America on both sides of the aisle, including from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). We even made a video about it!   

Oh, what a difference a year makes.

On Monday, the White House finally unveiled its infrastructure plan. Already, there's been a lot of analysis about the document. Some people like it. Some are skeptical. Others hate it.

But here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), we are mostly confused. After years of rhetoric from the president that promoted the idea, Buy America is nowhere to be seen in the proposal.

This is disappointing, to say the least. Buy America is commonsense policy that ensures that American workers and companies are given the first shot at the government procurement contracts to build infrastructure — meaning taxpayer dollars are reinvested in our communities rather than sent overseas. As AAM President Scott Paul explains:

"American workers are eager to supply the steel and other materials that form the spine of our nation's infrastructure. They deserve a policy that explicitly supports and expands Buy America." 

But hey, you don't have to take our word for it — one only needs to look to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to see what happens when infrastructure work is outsourced. Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his team made the call to use China-made steel to build that bridge. The project was plagued from the start; the decision to send the work overseas led to significant delays, cost overruns and lingering safety concerns

Meanwhile, the recently opened Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge (formerly the Tappan Zee Bridge) was rebuilt according to Buy America preferences, and came in on time and on budget. It's now considered a model project for others to follow.  

The good news is that the document released by the White House on Monday is just a proposal — there's still time to get this right. Senate Democrats (and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders) urged Trump to include Buy America in his infrastructure plan, and House Democrats made sure to put it into their own proposal.

If there is indeed any substantive action on infrastructure in 2018, we encourage the White House to work with Congress to come up with a robust investment plan that includes Buy America.