As the House and Senate Conference Committee debates the final version of a water infrastructure bill, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) urged Senate committee leaders to protect “Buy America” provisions that would support domestic manufacturers.
Brown introduced, and helped passed, a bipartisan amendment to the Senate version of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that would ensure that American-made iron, steel, and manufactured goods are used in federally-funded water infrastructure projects whenever they are available and competitively priced. But there are efforts being made to weaken this amendment and hurt Ohio manufacturers like ArcelorMittal in Cleveland, U. S. Steel in Lorain, Nucor in Marion, and Gerdau Long in Orrville.
“In order for our economy to continue adding jobs, we must ensure American taxpayer dollars are used to support manufacturers and workers at home, not overseas,” Brown said. “My bipartisan amendment would strengthen our economy and infrastructure while benefitting Ohio manufacturers. I urge Congress to oppose any proposal that would undermine our manufacturing base by weakening my amendment.”
Last year, both the Senate and House passed versions of WRDA, legislation which would connect businesses and communities throughout the country with critical resources for maintenance, inspections, and upgrades to water infrastructure projects. Final language of the legislation is now being negotiated by representatives of both chambers in a conference committee. But a provision has been proposed that would weaken Brown’s Buy America amendment and result in as much as 89 cents for every U.S. taxpayer dollar to be sent to foreign steelmakers for specific water infrastructure projects.
Brown’s amendment would extend Buy America provisions, which ensure that federal taxpayer dollars spent on public infrastructure utilize American-made materials and labor, to water infrastructure projects. Currently, Buy America applies to roads, bridges, and rail but not water infrastructure. Brown called on leaders of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Ranking Member David Vitter (R-La.), not to support the House proposal, and instead, support domestic manufacturers by protecting his “Buy America” amendment.
Brown continues to champion the cause of domestic manufacturing and its workers. During consideration of the Highway Bill, Brown successfully strengthened Buy America provisions for highway projects — closing loopholes that allowed companies to evade Buy America requirements by segmenting contracts.
Described as “Congress’ leading proponent of American Manufacturing,” Brown is a member of the Senate Manufacturing Caucus, currently Vice-Chair of the Senate Auto Caucus, and was recently named incoming Chair of the Senate Steel Caucus. Brown also is the author of the Wear American Act. Current law only requires federal government agencies to purchase textile products that are 51 percent American made. Brown’s bill, however, would require all textile products purchased by federal agencies to be made in the United States. This would create domestic jobs and potentially benefit local businesses.
Brown’s letter to Boxer and Vitter can be read in its entirety below:
April 3, 2014
The Honorable Barbara Boxer The Honorable David Vitter
Chairman Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Senate Committee on
Environment and Public Works Environment and Public Works
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510
Dear Chairman Boxer and Ranking Member Vitter:
As you complete negotiations on the Water Resources Development Act, we ask for your continued support for the Merkley-Brown Buy America amendment, which passed the Senate with a strong bipartisan vote. The amendment would allow domestic producers of iron, steel, and manufactured goods to supply necessary inputs under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) and would ensure WIFIA investments benefit American workers and taxpayers.
We have learned of efforts to weaken the Senate’s provision in conference and permit foreign-made steel slab to qualify “as having been produced in the United States, regardless of the country of origin of the steel slab.” This proposal, which was not considered in either chamber during deliberations, would send as much as 89 cents of each U.S. taxpayer dollar spent to procure the steel for infrastructure projects to foreign steelmakers, including one in Russia who is actively lobbying for this change. Creating this enormous loophole would not only undermine the intent of the Senate amendment, but also create a dangerous precedent for weakening our long-standing Buy America laws.
Thank you for your leadership on the WRDA bill and for your votes in support of our Buy America amendment. We ask for your continued support in conference and for your opposition to any efforts to weaken our language or create Buy America loopholes that will benefit foreign competition at the expense of American companies and workers.