They better be talking about implementing on-the-books Buy America rules!
Wednesday is a big day for people that like federal infrastructure investment: The first full meeting of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives kicks off at 9:30 am ET, and will examine “the state of transportation infrastructure and supply chain challenges.”
Suffice to say, this hearing will cover a lot of ground! There are a lot of supply chain challenges, and there’s a lot of infrastructure across the country to repair and develop. This is why the last Congress passed an enormous infrastructure funding bill in 2021 – the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – and it’s why President Biden has been out stumping in Kentucky and Maryland, talking about bridge and tunnel projects getting underway as the money Washington allocated begins to roll out.
But will it all be American-made?
It should be. At the heart of the 2021 program is the Build America, Buy America Act (BABA), which expands existing domestic preference rules so that more types of projects are covered by them and so that more products and materials used in those projects are covered too. It also closes the loopholes and ends exceptions that have allowed contractors to avoid the use of American-made materials.
These kinds of rules are broadly popular. If you were to put Buy America on a ballot, it would win in a landslide: 83% of respondents to a national poll conducted in January agreed that taxpayer dollars should go toward infrastructure projects that utilize American-made products like iron, steel, and other construction materials versus products imported from foreign countries.
All told, the BABA booster to Buy America is a serious shot in the arm for U.S. manufacturers and workers. It will make sure that Americans get the first shot at winning the contracts that infrastructure spending generates. And this round of infrastructure spending totals $1.2 trillion, a huge sum of money.
But for BABA to work, BABA must be implemented. The federal departments that will award these contracts have to issue the guidance for how to meet contract requirements, and even though this passed way back in 2021 it still hasn’t happened yet. And that means a lot of fine print is about to be written. And that fine print will be very important.
If it’s done incorrectly, lots of that infrastructure money will be awarded to manufacturers and workers that aren’t in the United States.
We expect Buy America to be a topic for the representatives on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Heck, it should be a topic. Not getting these rules written correctly would be against the will of voters. So, with that in mind, we’ll be watching. It’ll be live here at 9:30 am Eastern Time.