Buy America 2.0 Act Seeks to Close Key Infrastructure Funding Loopholes

May 20 2019
Getty Images

New legislation would extend sourcing requirements to aviation and public transit.

Infrastructure Week 2019 concluded last week without any big infrastructure announcements — no surprise there. However, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are scheduled to meet with President Trump on Wednesday to deal with financing for a proposed $2 trillion investment in infrastructure.

Without a doubt, our nation’s deteriorating bridges, roads, water systems and transit are desperately in need of this investment. Indeed, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s infrastructure a D+ on its 2017 report card. And Americans agree that it’s well past time that our government concentrate on solutions — recent polling data finds that 81% of likely voters consider infrastructure investment to be a top policy priority.

But critical to the success of any infrastructure investment is the return of taxpayer dollars to America’s workers and communities rather than being sent overseas. Though current Buy America legislation mandates federally funded infrastructure projects utilize goods and materials from domestic sources, loopholes remain.

In an effort to strengthen Buy America and close these loopholes, Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) introduced the Buy America 2.0 Act in the midst of this year’s Infrastructure Week.

“In America, our infrastructure is crumbling, and so is our middle class,” Boyle said. “When Congress moves to rebuild our infrastructure from our roads to our electric grid, we must do so in a way that boosts American workers and manufacturers, creating broad-based economic growth. That means using the high-quality U.S. steel, iron, and other materials made by hardworking Americans. The Buy America 2.0 Act is the only way to make sure that our federal investment in rebuilding our infrastructure is an investment in rebuilding the American Dream, too.”

Buy America 2.0 would extend Buy America domestic sourcing requirements to aviation and public transportation, foreign infiltration of which has recently presented alarming security risks. The bill already has attracted nearly two dozen cosponsors.

Despite President Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” campaign promises, his executive orders so far have failed to offer any true mandates, encouraging the use of American-made materials rather than requiring it.  

Time will tell if Trump can finally put action to his rhetoric when it comes to infrastructure, but he’d be wise to attend to the concerns of the vast majorities of likely voters of both parties who support Buy America preferences for federally funded infrastructure projects — 80% of likely voters support Buy America, according to recent polling. Buy America 2.0 and similar bills are clearly aligned with voters’ wishes.