Lipinski, Feingold Introduce the Buy American Improvement Act to Create American Jobs and Stop Taxpayer Dollars from Being Spent on Foreign-Made Products

Today, Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-03) and Senator Russ Feingold (WI) concurrently introduced the Buy American Improvement Act of 2009 in the House and the Senate, to eliminate loopholes in existing domestic sourcing laws and ensure that taxpayer money is used to purchase American-made products and support American jobs whenever possible.

The bills, H.R. 4351 and S. 2890, were introduced as the House today passed H.R. 2847, which includes strong Buy American provisions. Congressman Lipinski and Senator Feingold have been leading the fight to add Buy American provisions to the jobs bill. Earlier this month, they led 20 other members in a letter to President Obama making the case that strong Buy American laws are a proven, cost effective way to create jobs.

"For American taxpayer dollars to needlessly wind up in the pockets of workers in China and other foreign countries is indefensible in the best of times," Congressman Lipinski said. "During the worst recession in more than a quarter-century, it's a disgrace. Unfortunately, government bureaucrats continue to waive longstanding Buy American rules at the drop of a hat rather than look for American suppliers. This bill will help end that practice and prevent the government from purchasing foreign-made goods when there are competitive and readily available American alternatives."

"The federal government needs to be held accountable on whether it is supporting hard-working Americans," Feingold said. "Our legislation will help close loopholes in current law that have allowed federal agencies to evade the Buy American Act. By purchasing American-made goods whenever possible, our federal government will send a simple message to American workers: We support you."

The Buy American Improvement Act stops abuse of the waiver process, makes key reforms to level the playing field for American workers, and brings a new level of transparency to the implementation of the Buy American Act of 1933. And it does so in a balanced manner, while maintaining reasonable and carefully defined exceptions and complying with America's trade obligations. The bill is supported by the AFL-CIO, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the United Steelworkers.

The vast majority of Americans favor Buy American laws. Support for Buy American measures is also strong in Congress, as indicated by the Buy American provisions included in the jobs bill.

Congressman Lipinski's and Senator Feingold's bill requires federal agencies to publicly publish all waiver requests, waiver decisions, and justifications for waivers granted. This will put pressure on the agencies to ensure their decisions can hold up to scrutiny, allow taxpayers to determine for themselves if waivers are legitimate, and give American businesses a fighting chance to receive federal contracts.

In addition, agencies would be required to consider the short-term and long-term effect on domestic employment prior to issuing waivers. Domestic bidders would be given priority when their bids are substantially the same as those of foreign competitors. Before invoking a waiver, federal agencies would have to consider the total cost of goods obtained from foreign sources, inclusive of shipping costs and the impact on domestic employment. Establishing that no domestic alternative is "reasonably available" would entail a more thorough search and analysis. 

Federal agencies would also be prohibited from segmenting projects to avoid Buy American requirements. And products would have to be 75 percent American-made to be considered American-made.

Currently, Buy American rules can be waived if it is determined that applying the rules would be "inconsistent with the public interest." Under Congressman Lipinski's and Senator Feingold's bill, the Government Accountability Office would have to provide recommendations to Congress for defining this term to make sure the rules are consistently and legitimately applied.

"We've had Buy American rules on the books for nearly eight decades - and for good reason," Congressman Lipinski said. "Americans' tax dollars ought to support American jobs. With this bill, I continue to fight for that simple, self-evident principle."

(December 16, 2009)


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