Senators Want to Create a New Website to Help U.S. Manufacturers Win Federal Contracts

By Cathalijne Adams
New York’s Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, which replaced the Tappan Zee Bridge, was built with Buy America preferences. | Photo by Steve Strummer via Wikimedia Commons

About $34 billion in taxpayer dollars were paid to foreign manufacturers in the past five years.

A bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation on Thursday to create a new website to help American manufacturers land more federal contracts — and reduce the number of Buy American waivers given to federal agencies.

Approximately $34 billion in taxpayer dollars were paid to foreign manufacturers in the last five years. Under existing Buy American laws, federal projects like bridge building must utilize domestically manufactured goods and materials like steel, as long they are available and reasonably priced. But agencies have used waivers to get around Buy American, and domestic manufacturers are clearly losing out on substantial opportunities.

The new legislation aims to shine a light on the process and ensure federal agencies abide by Buy American by creating BuyAmerican.gov, a central, publicly available website that will collect and display information about each requested Buy American waiver. Manufacturers and others would then be able to identify contract opportunities, and federal agencies can be held accountable for abusing the waiver process.

“We must do everything we can to protect and maximize American jobs, and that starts by ensuring that our tax dollars aren’t used to create jobs overseas,” said Sen. Rob Portman, (R-Ohio), who introduced the bill alongside Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). 

“Our bill would go a much-needed step further,” said Murphy. “It would strengthen and provide transparency of our Buy American laws, which I’ve been working on since I came to Congress, and provide opportunities for U.S. manufacturers to compete to boost our economy and help secure the national security supply chain.”

Buy American waivers have consequences far beyond lost income for individual companies. Domestic manufacturers have faced significant challenges in recent years, and federal contracts can play a crucial role in preserving manufacturers, particularly those who are critical to our national security, as well as sustaining the communities and families that depend on these manufacturing jobs.

And it just doesn't make sense to send tax dollars overseas when American workers and companies are ready to do the job here at a reasonable price.

"Taxpayer dollars should support American-made products, and our federal agencies should lead the way in promoting U.S. jobs and products," Brown said. "American workers are the best at what they do, and our federal agencies should always look to them first when awarding government contracts." 

Buy American has strong backing from the public as well. Recent polling found that 80% of likely voters support these laws, and 76% were in favor of the creation of a public website that discloses any time that government agencies or contractors try to get around Buy American laws and use foreign goods.

Reps. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Mike Bost (R-Ill.) are jointly reintroducing companion legislation in the House.