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Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

The president-elect has so far been pretty clear how he feels about government procurement.

President-elect Donald Trump has, uh, made a lot of news in the last few days. The Senate confirmation hearings for his cabinet picks, meanwhile, are marching along!

One hearing we’ve had our eyes on is Elaine Chao’s. Chao, President George W. Bush's labor secretary, is Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Transportation.

She’s been facing questions from senators all day, including this one about whether Chao – who lives in Kentucky – prefers Louisville or Kentucky college hoops.

(Chao demurred, which was the incorrect answer. The correct answer was neither; national title drought or not, Indiana basketball is cosmically cooler than either of them.)*

But anyway, the nominee had a more meaningful exchange with Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who pressed Chao on whether she would support Buy America requirements for federal transportation projects.

Here’s what Senator Baldwin asked:

“Now, (Congressional Republicans’) position against Buy America is at stark odds with the president-elect, who has repeated his pledge that there will be two rules from rebuilding America’s infrastructure: ‘buy American and hire American.’

“If confirmed, you will undoubtedly play a leading role in implementing the president-elect’s infra plan.

“But it’s noteworthy to me that you have previously been critical of Buy America rules.

“In 2009 you wrote an op-ed describing buy America as ‘dig a moat around America’ policy. … I want to tease out how this conflict might be resolved, and my question is:

“If confirmed as Secretary of Transportation, will you stand with the president-elect and support Buy America?”

The Alliance for American Manufacturing likes Buy America rules, which give domestic manufacturers and the workers they employ the first shot at winning government procurement contracts. They are smartly designed policy; should no firm with a domestic manufacturing presence step up to win the contract at a reasonable cost, a waiver gets granted – which helps keep these rules fair to the taxpayer.

When public money goes into building or repairing a road or a bridge, we think it should spur domestic economic activity.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in fact, just announced a big Buy America plan for Empire State purchasing. And, wouldn’t you know it, Buy America rules are very popular with voters.

Here’s how Chao responded:

“The president-elect has made very clear his position on this, and it is his policy, and of course, all cabinet members will follow his policy.”

Sounds good! To be clear, here again is what President-elect Trump’s position is:

*The author of this post is an Indiana University basketball fan and an utter college basketball partisan.