Will Texas Legislators Buy America?

By Dean Showers
Aug 27 2021 |
American and Texas state flags flying on the dome of the Texas State Capitol building in Austin. | Getty Images

Domestic procurement rules have been popular in the Lone Star State. Will its federal delegation support an infrastructure bill that has lots of them?

These days, there are not many issues on which Texas Republicans and Texas Democrats share consensus. But there’s one that many Texans agree on, so the Texas Congressional Delegation better tune in: Most of its constituents believe it is imperative to enact Buy America policy when spending both state and federal tax dollars.

A 2020 poll by Trade Vistas found that 75% of Americans support Buy America; our own polling at the Alliance for American Manufacturing in 2019 found that 80% of Americans back Buy America. The voters of Texas are no exception to this polling; and it is also noteworthy that this is issue-based polling, not polling about a candidate. Issue-based polling has been found to be very accurate.

The reason this kind of policy is so popular is because Buy America makes an immediate kind of sense. Most of our fellow citizens want their tax dollars invested here in American companies, employing American workers, making American products. The Department of Defense spending is loaded with Buy America policy and for good reasons, national security, reliability, innovation, and pride to name a few. There are nine members of the Texas Congressional delegation who are veterans. They, more than anyone, should realize the value of sourcing things domestically.

Many in Texas already have. This year the Texas legislature unanimously approved TX SB783,  which expands Buy America preferences to certain construction projects at public institutions of higher education.  TX SB783 requires that iron and steel used in construction projects at public colleges and universities in the state be American-made whenever possible. And it builds off earlier legislation passed in 2017 by an easy margin, TX SB1289, which requires American-made iron and steel be used in most state infrastructure projects.

Rebuilding and modernizing America should not be a partisan fight, but it’s probably going to be one in the U.S. House of Representatives even after a huge infrastructure bill passed with legitimate bipartisan support in the Senate. The funding question shouldn’t simply be “how do we pay for this?”  It should be, “how do we find a way forward on this?” Because we need it. It must be robust and big enough to have a real impact on local economies in the U.S. that will benefit from the activity it will create … if the final legislation includes the Buy America policies that passed in the the Senate version.

Which brings us back to Texas. Its Congressional delegation will have a lot to say when this vote comes up in the U.S. House of Representatives. It has 36 seats in the closely divided 435-member body (and In the 2022 elections it will have 38 because of the latest Census numbers). After the huge infrastructure failures that happened during last winter’s ice storm, all 36 of them are well aware of what the stakes are.

Texan workers will be counting on all of their representatives to deliver an infrastructure bill that will give American companies and small businesses the modern infrastructure needed to compete in a global economy.  Both Texas senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, voted against the recently passed bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill. So what will the 36 member Texas congressional delegation choose in a few weeks when it’s their turn to vote?

Partisan politics for political gain? Or policy that will improve the everyday lives and activities of their constituents?

Dean Showers is a field coordinator for the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM).