Bipartisan Support Building for Buy America

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Jan 20 2017 |
The new Tappan Zee Bridge in New York is being built with Buy America preferences. It has created thousands of jobs. | Photo courtesy New York State Thruway Authority

Rep. Mike Bost builds GOP support in the House; Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown making push in Senate.

As President-elect Donald Trump prepares for his inauguration today, Members of Congress from across the aisle are pledging to work with him to strengthen Buy America preferences for federal infrastructure and public works projects.

Nearly 20 House Republicans sent a letter to the Trump transition team on Thursday in support of the upcoming administration’s “Buy American, Hire American” initiative. In their letter, the Members note that a comprehensive infrastructure investment program “using domestically-produced iron, steel and other manufactured goods is keeping with the intent of America’s longstanding domestic content laws.”

Expansion and proper enforcement of such laws is needed, the Members note. Here’s more:

“Many infrastructure programs are not subject to any Buy America procurement preference laws. Where such procurement preferences are applicable, these laws are often not administered effectively – resulting in hard-earned tax dollars leaking overseas and supporting job creation in China and other countries. These gaps in coverage have resulted in major public works projects being constructed with massive amounts of foreign steel and other imported products.”

The House Republicans aren’t the only ones pushing for Buy America on Capitol Hill. Over in the Senate, longtime Buy America supporter Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) announced on Thursday that he intends to introduce legislation to apply Buy America rules to all taxpayer-funded infrastructure and public works projects on Monday, Trump’s first full workday in office.

Brown sent a letter to Trump informing him of the bill. In a press release, Brown noted that while Buy America rules apply to some federal infrastructure programs, others “lack rules requiring the use of American-made products. The proposed legislation would ensure Buy America rules apply to all federally-assisted projects.”

“American tax dollars should go toward American-made products that support American jobs. Period,” Brown said. “I know President-elect Trump agrees that Buy America rules are critical as we rebuild American infrastructure and I look forward to working with him to make that happen.”

It’s a very good sign that bipartisan backing is building for Buy America. These commonsense preferences ensure that taxpayer dollars remain in the United States, helping to create new jobs, boost the economy and make America more competitive. Manufacturing jobs increase 33 percent per dollar spent on public works projects when Buy America provisions are applied.

There’s also major support for Buy America — nearly three-fourths of voters say large infrastructure projects that use tax money should be built with American materials and workers.

But there’s proof in the projects as well, and there’s no better case study than the comparison of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and Tappan Zee Bridge in New York.

Back in 2004, then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opted out of federal funding so the Bay Bridge could be built with Chinese-made steel. His argument was that it would save some money.

That proved so, so wrong. Sending the steel construction overseas created an array of problems that cost the state tons of taxpayer dollars and delayed the project for 12 years. When the Bay Bridge was finally completed, it went $3.9 billion OVER budget – and there are still questions about its safety.

Meanwhile, the new Tappan Zee Bridge in New York is being built with Buy America preferences. Its total cost is expected to be $3.9 billion, and while construction is still ongoing, it is making solid progress – and thousands of American workers have been hired to complete it.

Also of note: New York could be among the states leading the way on Buy America. Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a plan last week that would require the state government to apply Buy America to any purchases for goods and services costing more than $100,000.

“When American taxpayer dollars are being spent, an effort should be made to spend those in support of American workers,” said Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), who is among those leading the Buy America effort in the House. “As we grow our economy and rehabilitate our nation’s infrastructure, more must be done to ensure that Buy American preference laws are applied to these projects.”

Want to help support Buy America? Tell your Members of Congress to Back Buy America.