The chaos surrounding the Speaker votes overshadowed Biden’s visit to Kentucky, where joined Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and others to tout Made in America infrastructure investment.
There was a huge moment of bipartisanship last week. You probably missed it, since it happened at the same time that the House began voting on electing a new Speaker, and well, it went poorly for awhile there for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
But we aren’t here to talk about that! We’re talking about bipartisanship. Politicians of all political persuasions coming together to improve the lives of Americans.
It doesn’t happen all that often these days, but the passage of the long-awaited and very-much-needed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in November 2021 was one of those moments. And on Jan. 4, President Biden joined Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), former Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and a host of local officials to announce funding to repair the Brent Spence Bridge and build a companion bridge.
“Folks, look, I wanted to start off the new year at this historic project here in Ohio and Kentucky with a bipartisan group of officials because I believe it sends an important message — an important message to the entire country: We can work together. We can get things done. We can move the nation forward. We just drop a little bit of our egos and focus on what is needed in the country,” Biden said. “For decades, people have talked about the Brent Spence Bridge. But, folks, the talking is over. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law — we’re finally going to get it done.”
But that’s not what caught our attention the most. In his speech, Biden talked a lot about the various projects being funded by the infrastructure law, and made a point to note that it is “going to be made in America, all of it.”
Here’s a key excerpt from the speech:
“And we’re doing all this with American workers and American products that are made in America. It’s a simple concept. I can sum it up in two words: Buy American.
“I don’t sign anything that the Congress passes unless it’s buying of something American. With Sherrod Brown’s help, we’re making sure that the iron, steel, construction materials that they’re building in this bridge are made here in America, in the United States — made in Ohio, made in Kentucky — employing thousands of people all by itself.
“And that work we’re going to do largely and it’s being largely done by unions. Not labor, union. I can say the word ‘union.” Laborers, electricians, carpenters, cement masons, ironworkers, steelworkers, communication workers, autoworkers, and so much more. These are good jobs you can raise a family on, and most don’t require a college degree.
“All of this is about making an investment in America’s Heartland, in America’s people, in America’s future.
“It’s about making things in America again. It’s about good jobs. It’s about the dignity of work. It’s about respect.
“And, folks, it’s about damn time we’re doing it.”
It’s encouraging to hear the president reaffirming his commitment to Buy American now that the infrastructure bill is being implemented. To his credit, Biden has been of vocal supporter of both Buy America and Buy American preferences, which work to ensure the government reinvests taxpayer dollars back into American workers, businesses and communities rather than sending the money overseas.
Biden even brought it up in his 2022 State of the Union address, right after he talked about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This is clearly a priority for him.
And it was for Congress, too. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law contained key language called Build America, Buy America, which ensures domestic content preferences apply to infrastructure projects.
But now comes the hard part. As the bill is implemented and projects get underway all over the country, it’s critical that the Biden administration fully enforce these preferences. We’ve already seen some unfortunate missteps, like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deciding that Buy America doesn’t apply to the Clean School Bus Program — a missed opportunity to invest in the growing domestic electric vehicle sector at a critical time.
Other projects, however, are moving ahead with Buy America. Take this story about how the infrastructure bill is funding repairs to the water system in Linesville, Pa. An engineer on the project recently testified that the borough “must ensure that all materials used are made in America under the Build America, Buy America Act,” and “that will be possible except for some specialty technology items.”
This is how things should be! Project managers make a good faith effort to buy American-made whenever possible, and seek waivers in the rare instances when Made in USA items are not available.
President Biden understands the importance of Buy America, and it’s up to folks in his administration to get the implementation right.
“Folks, where is it written — where is it written that the United States cannot and will not lead the world in manufacturing once again?,” Biden said on Wednesday. “We’re going to do it.”