Members of the Congressional Steel Caucus want to include Buy America preferences in potential infrastructure investments, which will support U.S. job creation and strengthen the domestic steel industry and supply chain.
More Members of Congress are joining the effort to ensure that new U.S. infrastructure will be American-made.
On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of more than 50 Members of Congress sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) asking that strong Buy America preferences be included in investments to rebuild America’s public infrastructure.
Signed by 52 Members of the Congressional Steel Caucus, the letter notes that Buy America policies are a “trade-compliant tool” that helps “strengthen the economy and create jobs” while also working to “shore up our national defense and preparedness as fragile U.S. supply chains have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The letter continues:
“Each dollar that is directed overseas is a missed opportunity to revitalize our nation’s manufacturing sector and create good wage jobs for American workers. Furthermore, China’s state-owned and state-subsidized manufacturers should not have access to American tax dollars.”
Caucus co-chairmen Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) and Frank Mrvan (D-Ind.) led the letter-writing effort alongside vice-chairmen Rick Crawford (R-Ala.) and Mike Bost (R-Ill.). They weren’t the only Members of Congress calling for stronger Buy America preferences this week, either.
On Tuesday, Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) joined with Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) to reintroduce legislation to expand Buy America to more federally funded infrastructure projects.
The steel industry is well-suited to play a significant role in infrastructure projects, the steel caucus letter notes. But the unresolved global steel overcapacity crisis continues to threaten the industry, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problems.
“For more than a century, America’s steel industry has supplied the vast needs of our nation’s highway, bridge, transit, rail, airport, water, construction, energy, and other critical infrastructure,” the Members write. “These markets are critically important to the domestic steel industry and its workers, who continue to face unprecedented challenges due to dumped and subsidized imports and chronic global steel overcapacity.”
Potential improvements to Buy America include applying it “across all forms of federally assisted and direct federal infrastructure [spending], while covering more materials beyond iron and steel, closing loopholes, and defending the ‘all manufacturing processes’ standard which ensures that raw steel production occurs here in the United States,” the Members added.
The Members also noted that applying Buy America to infrastructure investments will help promote “a cleaner economy by rewarding U.S. production that meets our environmental regulations.”
That’s similar to a point made by U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Thursday, who highlighted what often happens when the U.S. depends on products made overseas.
In a speech given to outline her agency’s plans to tackle climate policy, Tai noted that the current global trading system “creates an incentive to compete by maintaining lower standards. Or worse yet, by lowering those standards even further.”
“Many companies make sourcing decisions based on these artificially low costs, creating pressure on competing countries to ask if they, too, should suppress environmental protection to attract investment,” Tai said. “This is what people mean when they say the rules of trade promote a race to the bottom.”
Here’s what all this means in the real world. The American steel industry abides by some of the strictest environmental rules and regulations on the planet, and is consistently innovating to reduce its carbon footprint even further. But many steelmakers abroad do not follow the same rules, and thus their production does more damage to the climate and our environment.
China, the world’s largest steelmaker, is a notorious polluter. Despite repeated promises to curb production, China’s industry continues to see a rise in CO2 emissions. So when the United States imports steel and other projects for major infrastructure projects, it is essentially importing pollution.
That’s just another reason why applying Buy America to infrastructure investment is so vital. Not only will it help create millions of new jobs and strengthen the economy, but it will also will ensure that new infrastructure is built according to strong environmental regulations.
A Commitment to Workers
In individual statements, the steel caucus chairs and vice-chairs all agreed that applying Buy America to infrastructure investment would benefit American workers.
“Rebuilding our infrastructure starts with a commitment to American workers. Buy America is a commonsense commitment to our critical domestic industries, including steel and manufacturing, that provide family-supporting jobs in districts like mine instead of sending them overseas to China,” Lamb said.
Added Mrvan: “Any federal investment in our public infrastructure must be used to support American workers and American steel and manufacturing industries.”
Crawford echoed those remarks.
“Investing in the American worker begins with an updated infrastructure system that utilizes American-made steel and iron. Our manufacturing industries have proven to be resilient in the face of challenges brought on by unfair steel dumping and the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “Buy America standards are critical to shoring up our economy and supporting the American steel industry. I implore House leadership to include this important standard in future legislation.”
Added Bost: “As we continue to recover from COVID-19, it is vitally important that we support American companies and workers. When American taxpayer dollars are being spent, we must prioritize spending them on products manufactured by American workers using American material, especially when it comes to the iron and steel industries. Strong Buy America policies will help ensure that this is the case.”