Senators Urge President Trump to Include Strong Buy American Standards in Infrastructure Plan

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Jan 30 2018 |
The new Tappan Zee Bridge, now called the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, was built according to Buy American standards. It came in under budget and ahead of schedule. | Photo by NY State Thruway Authority

Sen. Bernie Sanders joins Senate Democrats in sending a letter to the White House.

President Trump is set to deliver his first official State of the Union address on Tuesday night, and all of Washington is aflutter. Will he talk immigration? Is he going to announce any big trade decisions? Will he finally reveal any details of his long-awaited infrastructure plan?

Infrastructure appears to be the next big ticket policy item on Trump's agenda — and a group of Senate Democrats and one independent are calling on the president to do the job right.

In a letter sent to the White House on Jan. 26, the Senators ask Trump to include strong Buy American standards in his upcoming infrastructure proposal. As the Senators note, Trump long has pledged to "Buy American" when building new infrastructure, including in his inaugural address. They write:

"As you draft your infrastructure proposal, we encourage you to not only protect existing 'Buy America' laws, but to work with Congress to expand these protections and address coverage gaps. In addition, no infrastructure proposal should allow circumvention of current requirements in federal law that ensure our public infrastructure is built with American-made iron, steel, and manufactured materials by workers who are paid a fair wage."

Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Christopher Murphy (Conn.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Robert Casey (Pa.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Jeff Merkley (Ore.) signed the letter, as did Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). 

Along with urging Trump to include Buy American in his infrastructure plans, the senators also call on Trump to finish a federal report on Buy American that was due in November and has yet to be released. "We would urge you to expedite its completion and publicly share its findings with fellow supporters of 'Buy America' policy in Congress in order to achieve our shared goals," the Senators write.

Given the animosity in Washington these days, there are not a lot of areas in which the White House and Democrats can find agreement. The need to rebuild and repair America's infrastructure — while adhearing to Buy American — is one of them. 

Reinvesting taxpayer dollars into American workers and communities for infrastructure projects is good policy; sending tax dollars overseas when there are workers and companies ready to do the job here at a fair price is not.

The proof is in the projects. When officials in California decided to outsource construction of the Bay Bridge to China, they ran into a whole host of problems. The project finished late, was over budget and continues to be plagued by safety concerns. Meanwhile, New York officials built the new Tappan Zee Bridge according to Buy America standards. Now called the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, that project was built on time, on budget and is considered a model for other infrastructure projects to follow.

So, it just makes sense that Senators now want to make sure that future infrastructure projects are Made in America, too.

"Only strict adherence to this principle will ensure that the economic benefits of infrastructure investment flow directly to American companies, not to foreign companies in countries like China that aim to flood our country with state-subsidized imports of steel and other goods, which threaten American manufacturers," the Senators write to Trump.

They later continue: "We encourage you to include these proposals in your infrastructure proposal. While these suggestions are not only our priorities on infrastructure, we are hopeful that we can work together to ensure that Congress strengthens our government's commitment to buying American-made goods in order to improve wages, boost growth, and support American manufacturers."

Read the full letter.