Rahall promotes 'Made in America' bill for infrastructure projects
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., introduced legislation on Tuesday to promote the use of American-made products that are being used for taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects.
The "Invest in American Jobs Act of 2013" will require the use of products stamped "Made in America" to build highways, bridges, public transit facilities, passenger rails and airports across the country.
Labor unions and manufacturing companies are backing the new legislation.
In the near future, the $6.3 billion East Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is scheduled to open. It is one of the largest publicly supported infrastructure projects in the country.
"But instead of steel cast in the Alleghenies or roadbed segments assembled in Alameda, cars and trucks using the bridge will be driving over 43,000 tons of steel imported from China, which supported 3,000 Chinese jobs and was financed by U.S. taxpayers," Rahall said.
Leo W. Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, said, "At a time when millions of Americans are unable to find jobs, are only working part-time, or have altogether given up hope of finding a job, it is appalling, offensive and downright wrong to send our taxpayer dollars overseas when they should be invested in U.S. companies here at home rebuilding America.
"This legislation will put a stop to the practice, help turn our economy around, and start to rebuild a major sector of our economy," Gerard said in an article published on the union's website Tuesday.
Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said, "Our 'Buy America' laws ensure that hard-earned tax dollars support good, quality jobs right here at home. But loopholes and exemptions have weakened these laws over time, allowing more of the public's money to be sent overseas to purchase steel and manufactured goods from countries like China."
The Alliance for American Manufacturing is a coalition between major manufacturing companies and organizations, including U.S. Steel and the United Steelworkers.
Money from railroad loans, Clean Water Act grants and FEMA grants is not going to domestic companies that "pay taxes and comply with federal standards for clean air, clean water, and plant safety while simultaneously competing with subsidized imports from China and India that do not bear similar costs," Paul said during a Tuesday morning news conference on Capitol Hill.
Reps. Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., Corrine Brown, D-Fla.; Timothy H. Bishop, D-N.Y.; Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-Washington, D.C.; and John Garamendi, D-Calif., joined Rahall in co-sponsoring the legislation.
Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Bob Casey, D-Pa., are also strong supporters.
Rahall, the top Democrat on the House Transportation Committee, said, "Committee Democrats insisted on closing the loopholes in our 'Buy America' laws to prevent the continuation of this outrageous and economically harmful practice of outsourcing our federal highway and transit construction."
Last year, Democrats backed numerous provisions to increase "Buy America" requirements, but they were removed during legislative conference discussions between Democrats and Republicans.
"Today we are here to finish the job and ensure that all taxpayer-funded infrastructure investments support American jobs," Rahall said.
The new bill would strengthen existing "Buy America" requirements to ensure all steel, iron and manufactured goods used in highway, bridge, public transit, rail and aviation infrastructure projects are made in the U.S.
The bill would also increase domestic content requirements for railroad and aviation projects from 60 percent to 100 percent by fiscal year 2017.
A recent Northwestern University study revealed stronger Buy America requirements for buses and railroads alone would create nearly 13,000 additional jobs.
Giving away American jobs, Rahall said, "should be inexcusable in any instance, but it is unconscionable when millions of Americans are seeking employment."
The new bill would allow federal agencies to waive "Buy America" requirements if federal officials determine needed steel, iron or manufactured goods are not being produced in the U.S. in sufficient quantities.
"Buy America" requirements could also be waived if using goods produced in the U.S. would increase total project costs by more than 25 percent.
Other labor and business groups backing Rahall's bill include: the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, American Foundry Society, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, National Steel Bridge Alliance, Nucor Corp. and the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at email@example.com or 304-348-5164.