House Democrats proposed a transportation bill on Thursday that tightens ‘Buy American’ provisions on materials used in infrastructure projects, countering a Republican plan to tie expanded energy production to transport funding.
Under the proposal, the requirement for U.S.-sourced construction materials would be expanded from 60 percent to 100 percent by fiscal 2016. The bill allows exemptions to the Buy American provisions if there is an insufficient supply of the needed materials or using U.S. materials would increase the cost of the project bymore than 25 percent.
The bill "will ensure that all future bridges and similar transportation and infrastructure projects financed by U.S. taxpayers will be stamped ‘Made in America’ crafted with American workmanship, and will create and sustain good-paying jobs in our local communities – not overseas,” said Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.V., who is sponsoring the bill.
Democrats pointed to how Chinese steel was used in the $6.3 billion project to replace a 2.2-mile span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in July, creating about 3,000 jobs for the Chinese instead of U.S workers. They quipped it should be stamped 'Made in America but paid for by U.S. taxpayers.'
“The Republican leadership has said that the major jobs bill of this Congress will be a surface transportation bill. The question is where will they create the jobs? Will the jobs be created here at home, or abroad in China?” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., “This is a challenge to the Republicans. Adopt our Buy America requirements as part of the surface reauthorization bill.”
Republicans want to expanded domestic energy production to help fill an estimated $75 million shortfall in their five-year surface transportation bill. They have not said how much funding they expect to gain through new oil and natural gas drilling, nor have Republicans revealed the scale of bill, which is expected to be introduced late next month.