#RNCinCLE Day Three: Is Chris Christie Guilty or Not Guilty of Buy America Hypocrisy?

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Jul 20 2016 |
Photo by Gage Skidmore

Christie criticized Hillary Clinton on the issue, but he vetoed bipartisan Buy America legislation.

It’s Day Three here at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and the theme of the day is “Make America First Again.” Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, Trump’s running mate, is expected to take the stage tonight, as are Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

We aren’t expecting to see manufacturing issues discussed much during the session today, and frankly, we were a bit disappointed that speakers during last night’s “Make America Work Again” session didn’t spend more time talking about things like trade, infrastructure or even job creation.

But New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said something that sure caught our attention.

Christie spent most of his speech lambasting Hillary Clinton, as he “prosecuted” the presumptive Democratic nominee on a number of issues, including her record on Buy America. Here is Christie’s case:

“In China, Hillary Clinton praised the Chinese government for buying our debt to finance President Obama’s bloated stimulus plan.

So desperate for Chinese cash, she promised to oppose the Buy American provision in the stimulus bill in exchange for the case to finance his huge expansion of government spending. Hillary Clinton, putting big government spending financed by the Chinese ahead of jobs for middle class Americans.”

Let’s break this down a bit.

As The New York Times noted, Christie does actually make a point. Clinton and President Obama both opposed the Buy America provision in the 2008 stimulus package, which they said would cause a trade war with China in the midst of an economic crisis.

In the end, Buy America language did make it into the final bill. Clinton now says she favors Buy America, including in her proposed infrastructure bank, which will operate with “domestic sourcing requirements for project materials."

That’s not what had our ears ringing. We just couldn’t get over the fact that Christie had the gall to criticize Hillary Clinton on Buy America, given that he vetoed commonsense Buy America legislation in his own state.

The Case Against Christie

We’ll go along with Christie’s whole trial theme and let you decide whether Christie is guilty of hypocrisy here.

The Buy America bill aimed to strengthen New Jersey’s Buy America laws by requiring the use of American-made goods for public contracts whenever possible and financially feasible. Four companion bills would have applied similar standards to bi-state agencies like the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which picked an Italian company to provide the steel to upgrade the Bayonne Bridge (and put hundreds of U.S. steelworkers out of work).

The legislation package would have given American companies and workers the first shot at government procurement projects, creating and supporting middle class and jobs and keeping taxpayer money here at home. It had bipartisan support and passed the New Jersey legislature.

Christie vetoed all five bills. He said that the language would “constrain purchasing decisions” and put up economic barriers for international companies looking to do business in the Garden State.

Proponents of the legislation saw Christie’s veto as a missed opportunity.

“The Made in America bills are more than an expression of economic patriotism, they could have been an effective way of boosting the state’s economy,” New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who sponsored the bill, said shortly after the veto. “The recovery in New Jersey has lagged behind other states so we should be doing all we can to generate economic growth and promote economic opportunity.”

It’s time to render your verdict. Is Chris Christie Guilty or Not Guilty of Buy America hypocrisy?