Biden Administration Unveils Build America, Buy America Guidance

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Aug 15 2023 |
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Proper implementation of the new law is critical.

The Biden administration on Monday issued its final guidance for the implementation of Build America, Buy America (BABA) provisions included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The proper implementation of BABA is critical to ensuring that taxpayer money spent on infrastructure will be invested back into American workers and Made in America products. While Buy America preferences have been around for decades, BABA ensures all federally funded infrastructure projects adhere to Buy America. It also broadens the types of products and materials that are covered by Buy America, including copper, aluminum, glass, lumber, drywall, and fiber optic cable. Before BABA, domestic preferences typically covered only iron, steel, and some manufactured products.

President Biden has been a major proponent of strong Buy America laws, and even used his 2023 State of the Union address to announce that new Buy America standards will “require all construction materials used in federal infrastructure projects to be Made in America.” But Buy America still has its opponents, and there’s ongoing concern that BABA’s implementation will be weakened via the use of overly broad waivers — which is something that has happened before.

While importers and their allies may want to weaken Buy America, the American people do not. Public opinion poll after poll shows robust bipartisan support for Buy America, with 83% of respondents saying they agree that “taxpayer dollars should go toward infrastructure projects that utilize American-made products like iron, steel, and other construction materials versus products that are imported from foreign countries” in a February 2023 poll conducted by Morning Consult for the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM).

AAM President Scott Paul said Monday that the new BABA guidance issued by the Biden administration is “another step forward for American manufacturers and their workers,” noting that it comes “in the face of ongoing efforts of special interest groups reliant on offshore production trying to weaken the new law so that American tax dollars continue to be spent on foreign products for our infrastructure.”

Paul said:

“Lawmakers developed the Build America, Buy America provisions to maximize the historic infrastructure law’s job creation potential. The law should be fully implemented in accordance with Congress’ intent. 

“The details of Buy America implementing policies are critical. As we continue to read and digest the entirety of OMB’s guidance, we will continue to stress the importance of strong Buy America implementation policies with the administration and Congress.”

United Steelworkers (USW) President Tom Conway offered similar thoughts, noting that the 850,000-member strong union is “pleased to see the Biden administration move forward with implementation of BABA” and that “strong BABA implementation is a critical step toward reshoring lost industrial capabilities, strengthening broken supply chains, and establishing the United States as a leader in the manufacturing of new technologies.” He continued:

“By promoting investment in domestic manufacturing, Buy America policies ensure that taxpayer-funded investments align with the highest labor and environmental standards in the world.

“The union is eager to review the details of the issued guidance as they are critical to the policy’s success. The USW will continue to amplify our members’ voices, and we look forward to remaining engaged in the process to ensure the full application of BABA.

“Through our members’ hard work and dedication and strong Buy America policies, the USW can continue to supply our nation’s critical infrastructure needs.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who was among the policymakers who advocated for inclusion of BABA in the infrastructure law, said Monday that the infrastructure law “the Buy America provisions I fought to include mean [infrastructure] investments are also supporting our Made in America manufacturing economy and creating more family-supporting jobs.”

That’s true of Baldwin’s home state, where Nokia just announced new broadband electronics production that came about thanks to Buy America.

“To me, it’s always been simple: when we spend taxpayer dollars, we should be investing those dollars in American businesses, American jobs and American workers whenever possible,” Baldwin said.