Reps. Lipinski and Joyce Lead Effort to Strengthen Buy America Laws (May 20, 2015)

Reps. Dan Lipinski (IL-3) and David Joyce (OH-14) are leading a bipartisan group of lawmakers in introducing legislation that will strengthen Buy America laws which impact federal purchases when it comes to transportation.  As co-chairs of the Congressional Buy American Caucus, Lipinski and Joyce understand how critical it is that federal taxpayer dollars are spent at home employing Americans whenever possible.  This particular legislation is especially important now with numerous pieces of transportation legislation expected to be passed this Congress.

The Buy America Act, which sets domestic content standards for the indirect purchases by Department of Transportation grantees, ensures that tax dollars spent on aviation, highway, transit, and rail infrastructure will support U.S. manufacturing and mining jobs, instead of jobs overseas.  Unfortunately, there are loopholes to get around current Buy America laws, meaning that funds can end up supporting foreign workers and not Americans.

“We must strengthen Buy America laws and close the loopholes that allow our tax dollars to employ foreign workers rather than Americans,” said Rep. Lipinski.  “Buying American is one of the fastest and most effective ways to create jobs and give the overall economy a boost.  This legislation will help ensure that we are supporting American workers, especially the hard-working middle class.”

“If we are going to spend the tax dollars of our hard-working constituents, we should at least do everything we can to spend them on American made products and projects whenever possible,” Rep. Joyce said.  “Closing these loopholes means the competitive advantage goes to American companies and will create American jobs, not foreign ones.”

The Buy America Update Act will close loopholes and modernize portions of the Buy America statutes that pertain to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Amtrak, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Specifically, this bill will make the following modifications:

·         FHWA:The Buy America Update Act would close the CMAQ loophole to ensure that rolling stock and vehicles purchased by grantees are manufactured to meet a 60% domestic content requirement. Presently, 60% is mandated for rolling stock purchased with FTA dollars, but no corresponding requirement pertains to FHWA requirements due to the fact that the CMAQ program was created after the FHWA Buy America statute was enacted.  Additionally, it would direct the FHWA to examine whether it should be reevaluate its decision to exclude manufactured products other than those made from steel and iron from domestic content process.

·         FTA:In order to ensure that American materials are used in bus and rail procurements funded by FTA grants, the Buy America Update Act would direct FTA to develop new auditing guidelines and conduct a rulemaking to develop its auditing procedures in order to verify that American components are in fact being used.

·         Amtrak:The Buy America Update Act would ensure that Amtrak examines every possible supplier before seeking a Buy America Act waiver by requiring it to enter into an agreement with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to conduct supplier scouting processes. Numerous other transportation agencies currently use NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership for supplier scouting, so this requirement would establish parity and help grow a supplier base for rail components.

·         FAA: While the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) and the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) are the major sources of funding for airport projects across the country, Buy America requirements only pertain to AIP funded projects.  In order to correct these differences, the Buy America Update Act would establish corresponding requirements for PFC-funded projects to ensure parity across federally-administered infrastructure projects.  Finally, the Buy America Update Act would require the FAA to consult with NIST before seeking a Buy America Act waiver.

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