Legislation Introduced to Strengthen ‘Buy American’

Much needed legislation to create jobs and strengthen Buy American provisions advanced this week in the House of Representatives, where the Jobs for Main Street Act (HR 2847) passed by a vote of 217 to 212. The $154 billion measure, introduced by Wisconsin Democratic Representative David Obey with Buy America provisions by Iowa Democratic Representative Bruce Braley, includes funds for highway, transit and water projects as well as money to help communities retain teachers and firefighters. The bill, which did not get a single GOP vote, also contains $41 billion for a six-month extension of unemployment benefits and $12 billion to renew COBRA health insurance subsidies.

In the Senate, Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold this week introduced the Buy American Improvement Act (S. 2890), legislation that would significantly strengthen the Buy American Act of 1933, which requires the federal government to buy American-made goods whenever possible.

The senate legislation would prohibit agencies from invoking a range of waivers that have been used to sidestep the original law and allow the purchase foreign-made goods and services. The legislation would also require that products be at least 75 percent American-made in order to qualify under the Buy American Act (current law sets the qualifying content standard at 50 percent).

Additionally, the bill would requires federal agencies to consider short-term and long-term effects on domestic employment before granting any waivers under the Buy American Act and require federal agencies to publish all requests for waivers, waiver decisions, and justifications for waivers granted.