Senate Committee Advances Several Bills to Strengthen Buy America

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
May 12 2021 |
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The “Build America, Buy America Act” and the “ Act of 2021” were among the measures passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

Momentum is building on Capitol Hill to strengthen Buy America.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee on Wednesday advanced several pieces of legislation that aim to close Buy America loopholes and support the government purchase of American-made products.

The Senate committee advanced the Build America, Buy America Act, which aims to ensure Buy America preferences apply to all taxpayer-funded infrastructure and public works projects.

Introduced by Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Committee Ranking Member Rob Portman (R-Ohio), along with Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.), the bill could play a critical role as Congress looks to fund major infrastructure investment.

Right now, not all federal programs that provide grants to infrastructure projects abide by Buy America, which means foreign-made iron, steel, and other manufactured products have been used in infrastructure projects paid for with federal taxpayer dollars.

AAM endorsed the “Build America, Buy America” Act when it was introduced earlier this year.

“If Buy America does not apply to all taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects, we’ll send that money overseas and leave good jobs on the table. We strongly endorse this legislation and urge Congress to swiftly adopt it,” AAM President Scott Paul said. “The result: More American jobs, increased demand at factories, and a stronger infrastructure.”

Reps. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), and Frank Mrvan (D-Ind.). have introduced companion legislation in the House.

The committee also advanced the Make It In America Act and Made in America Act by including key elements in the language for the Build America, Buy America Act.

Introduced by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the Made in America Act would expand Buy America to federal programs that fund infrastructure projects but currently aren’t subject to Buy America preferences. Meanwhile, the Make It in America Act — introduced by Baldwin, Peters, Portman, Braun and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) — would close Buy America loopholes and require the federal government to give preference to American companies and spend taxpayer dollars on American-made products.

The panel unanimously passed by voice vote the Act of 2021, which would create a centralized online hub (at to track Buy America waiver requests, providing additional transparency to allow American manufacturers to compete for federal contract opportunities.

Introduced by a bipartisan group of cosponsors including Portman, and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), alongside Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Brown, and Stabenow.

Buy America waivers end up sending a lot of taxpayer dollars overseas. Stabenow released a report back in 2018 that found 13 government agencies spent $92 billion on foreign contracts between 2008 and 2016 via Buy America loopholes. One of the reasons why is that there isn’t an easily accessible system (like say, a website) to track Buy America waivers.

Committee members also unanimously approved the Make PPE in America Act, a critical bill that would require the Defense Logistics Agency to issue long-term contracts for American-made personal protective equipment (PPE).

Introduced by Peters and Portman, the measure is essential to ensuring that the United States doesn’t repeat its past mistakes when it comes to critical equipment like PPE.

As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to (hopefully) wind down, American manufacturers are being threatened by below-cost face mask imports from China. The government can stand up for American makers — many of whom built PPE factories from scratch in the darkest days of the pandemic — by ensuring that all taxpayer-funded purchases of PPE are for Made in USA products. Doing so also will better position the United States to respond to a future crisis.

We will continue to monitor these pieces of legislation as they continue to work their way through the chamber.