REP. LIPINSKI, SEN. FEINGOLD LEAD 22 MEMBERS IN URGING PRESIDENT TO SUPPORT INCLUSION OF “BUY AMERICAN” REQUIREMENTS IN JOINT JOB CREATION LEGISLATION
December 3, 2009
As President Obama held his jobs summit today, Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) and Senator Russ Feingold (WI) led 22 members of Congress in calling on the President to include strong “Buy American” provisions in any future jobs legislation. In addition, Congressman Lipinski announced that he intends to introduce a bill to close gaping loopholes that have drastically reduced the effectiveness of existing “Buy American” laws.
“The amount of taxpayer money that is needlessly spent on foreign-made products when there are domestically manufactured alternatives is nothing short of outrageous,” Congressman Lipinski said. “At a time of double-digit unemployment, Americans’ tax dollars should be supporting workers right here at home, not halfway around the globe. Unfortunately, government agencies continue to make a mockery of the ‘Buy American’ laws that are on the books by taking advantage of an opaque waiver process in order to purchase foreign goods when there are domestic options. We need to make sure that any jobs legislation contains strong, effective ‘Buy American’ rules and to make sure that the rules already in place work as intended to create jobs in this country.”
Signing the letter to the President along with Congressman Lipinski and Senator Feingold were Senator Sherrod Brown and 19 House members.
Congressman Lipinski did not vote for the stimulus bill, but he led an effort that was joined by more than 50 of his colleagues to include a “Buy American” provision in the legislation. But the language was not as strong as what Lipinski specifically sought in his amendment, and the waiver process has generated many complaints that significant American taxpayer dollars spent in the stimulus have gone overseas. Now, with the House gearing up to pass jobs legislation, “Buy American” supporters are working together once again. Today, Lipinski and Representatives Chris Murphy, Betty Sutton, Donna Edwards, and Mark Schauer met to discuss the need for strong “Buy American” legislation.
“We need to do all we can to promote fiscally responsible federal policies that support the creation of American jobs to help get the unemployed and underemployed back to work,” the letter to the President states. “To maximize the benefit of such policies for American workers, we urge you to include strong and effective ‘Buy American’ and domestic sourcing requirements in any legislative proposals developed by your administration in response to this jobs forum. In addition to including ‘Buy American’ or other domestic sourcing provisions in any jobs bill, we also encourage you to ensure these provisions are drafted in such a manner to ensure they are effective and cannot be easily circumvented. While there should be a reasonable waiver process included in domestic sourcing provisions to address situations where American-made goods may not be available or are prohibitively expensive, there are so many loopholes in the Buy American Act that much of the law’s strength has been diluted.”
“With unemployment near double digits in Wisconsin and already over ten percent nationally, the federal government should be doing everything it can to support American workers,” Feingold said. “I commend President Obama for focusing on getting Americans back to work with this jobs summit. As his administration works with business leaders to develop proposals to lower unemployment, it should include ‘Buy American’ provisions to encourage the purchase of American-made goods and support American jobs.”
The bill Congressman Lipinski plans to introduce would close loopholes in the waiver process through rigorous disclosure and reporting provisions, and strengthen underlying domestic procurement requirements. Among other things, it would require that all waiver requests be publicly posted with a reasonable period for public comment, that all waiver grants be justified in public postings, that annual public reports be issued on waivers granted, and that the true cost of foreign products that are illegally dumped be considered in assessing bids. It would also define “American-made” as being at least 75 percent American-made.
Congressman Lipinski’s top priority is creating American jobs. Earlier this week, he called on President Obama to support quick passage of a half-trillion dollar, six-year surface transportation reauthorization bill that will make badly needed improvements to the nation’s infrastructure and create and sustain millions of jobs. The prior authorization ended September 30 and was temporarily extended to December 18, leaving America’s transportation needs significantly underfunded. Although the last multi-year transportation bill expired two months ago, the White House, with support from the Senate, has aimed to delay a new bill for 18 months, passing up a clear opportunity to lower unemployment and undertake critical projects.
“We need to act immediately to help the millions of Americans who are out of work,” Congressman Lipinski said. “We can start by making sure that the government stops spending taxpayer money on goods manufactured in China and other foreign nations when it could spend the money at home.”
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