Portman, Brown, Braun, Peters Reintroduce ‘Build America, Buy America’ Legislation

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Gary Peters (D-MI) today announced they are reintroducing legislation to apply Buy America rules to all taxpayer-funded infrastructure and public works projects. Currently, Buy America rules have not been fully implemented with respect to all federal programs that provide grants for the construction of infrastructure. This means American-made iron, steel, and manufactured products are required for some infrastructure projects, but not all. When Chinese or Russian-made steel and other products are used instead of American products, it steals jobs from U.S. workers. U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH) is introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives. 

The bipartisan Build America, Buy America Act, would implement Buy America rules across the board – ensuring that American taxpayer dollars are used to buy American-made iron, steel, and manufactured products for any federally funded infrastructure projects. 

“I’m proud to lead this legislation with Senator Brown because when the government spends American taxpayer money on an infrastructure project, it’s common sense that the materials used in that project should be purchased from those same taxpayers making those materials in the United States. We have the world’s best workers making the best materials we need right here at home,” said Portman. 

“We cannot allow foreign companies to continue to undercut our domestic industries. Without Buy America rules, we are allowing manufacturing to go elsewhere at the expense of taxpayers,” said Brown. “It’s simple: American tax dollars should go toward American-made projects that support American jobs. Period.” 

“In Indiana, Made-in-America is more than a slogan: More Hoosiers are employed in manufacturing than in any other industry,” said Braun. “U.S. infrastructure projects ought to support workers and create jobs in South Bend and Gary, not in Shenzhen and Guangzhou.” 

“American workers make some of the best products in the world. We should be doing everything we can to expand opportunities for them to build our roads and bridges,” said Peters. “I am proud to cosponsor this bipartisan legislation that would close existing loopholes and encourage the use of American-made materials in infrastructure projects.” 

Because Buy America rules have not been fully implemented for all federal infrastructure programs, some foreign materials can be used to construct many taxpayer-funded highways, roads, bridges, and water and energy infrastructure projects. Portman, Brown, Braun, and Peters believe these products should instead be produced in the U.S. 

Take for example the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Buy America requirements. The Buy America requirements for that agency have been applied only to iron and steel used for structures. However, the FHWA has estimated that structural steel accounts for less than 5 percent of the costs of a typical highway project. That means the vast majority of materials used to construct federally assisted highways, roads, and bridges do not have to be produced in the U.S.

The Build America, Buy America Act would fix these loopholes and ensures the Buy America statute actually results in the purchase of American-made iron, steel, and manufactured products for all federally funded infrastructure projects. 

The Alliance for American Manufacturing has endorsed this bill. 

Portman and Brown also joined their colleagues Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to reintroduce their BuyAmerican.gov Act in March. This legislation would establish a centralized online hub to increase transparency and ensure federal agencies prioritize the purchase of American-made goods in compliance with existing law. Under current law, federal agencies may use domestic content waivers to Buy American laws to purchase goods or services from foreign companies only in certain circumstances: for example, when an American-made good is unavailable or will significantly increase the cost of a product. However, federal agencies overuse this waiver authority and there is currently no easily accessible government-wide system to track the use and abuse of these waivers by federal agencies.