Bipartisan ‘Infrastructure’ Bill Allows Feds to Bypass ‘Buy American’ Rules, Outsource U.S. Manufacturing

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 14: <> on March 14, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott
Scott Olson/Getty Images

An infrastructure package, crafted by a group of Senate Democrats and Republicans and first obtained by Breitbart News, would allow federal bureaucrats to bypass “Buy American” requirements for projects funded by the legislation.

The bill requires, no later than 180 days after its enactment, the heads of federal agencies to ensure that “none of the funds made available for” each infrastructure project “may be obligated … unless all of the iron, steel, manufactured products, and construction materials used in the project are produced in the United States.”

Directly beneath the Buy American rule, though, is a massive carveout that allows the heads of federal agencies to bypass the requirement if they consider the requirement “inconsistent with the public interest,” does not meet “satisfactory quality,” or if they believe buying American will increase costs for the projects.

The bill reads:

The head of a Federal agency that applies a domestic content procurement preference under this section may waive the application of that preference in any case in which the head of the Federal agency finds that:

  1. applying the domestic content procurement preference would be inconsistent with the public interest;
  2. types of iron, steel, manufactured products, or construction materials are not produced in the United States in sufficient and reasonably available quantities or of a satisfactory quality; or
  3. the inclusion of iron, steel, manufactured products, or construction materials produced in the United States will increase the cost of the overall project by more than 25 percent.

Such waivers issued by federal agency heads to bypass Buy American requirements would only be reviewed every five years, according to the bill, and would have to be justified in the Federal Register with a public comment period of no fewer than 30 days.

As Breitbart News columnist James Pinkerton noted last week, China dominates such industries as solar panels and electric vehicles — indicating that outsourcing manufacturing for U.S. infrastructure projects is likely to benefit China.

Pinkerton writes:

By contrast, the Biden administration wants more power to comes from solar, which means solar panel s— 80 percent of which are made in China. (The U.S.-made share of the world market for panels is in the low single digits). [Emphasis added]

So we can see: If we rush to install solar panels in the U.S., they will have to come from overseas, most likely China. Which is to say, the jobs for Americans will be as low-value-added solar-panel installers, not high-value-added solar-panel manufacturers. [Emphasis added]

So we can see: If the country goes solar, not only will traditional energy jobs shrink, but most likely, the solar jobs won’t pay well. Oh and also, there won’t be that many of them, since maintaining solar panels with no moving parts is a lot less labor-intensive than managing a whole power plant, including all those turbines. [Emphasis added]

We can add that the same general point holds true for other forms of renewable energy. Renewables are less labor-intensive; the real action is running the computers that run the grid. Moreover, the simpler the task at the point of production, the more likely it is that the work can be done by machines or robots. [Emphasis added]

For all these reasons, it’s easy to see how a Silicon Valley tech company such as Google could end up controlling most of the nation’s green energy supply. That’s great for profits for Big Tech, not so great for jobs on Main Street. [Emphasis added]

Nine Senate Republicans worked with Democrats on the bill, including:

  1. Richard Burr (R-NC)
  2. Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
  3. Susan Collins (R-ME)
  4. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
  5. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
  6. Rob Portman (R-OH)
  7. Mitt Romney (R-UT)
  8. Mike Rounds (R-SD)
  9. Thom Tillis (R-NC)

Meanwhile, 18 Senate Republicans supported advancing the bill late last week without ever reading the bill’s final version, including:

  1. Roy Blunt (R-MO)
  2. Richard Burr (R-NC)
  3. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
  4. Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
  5. Mike Crapo (R-ID)
  6. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
  7. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  8. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
  9. Rob Portman (R-OH)
  10. Jim Risch (R-ID)
  11. Mitt Romney (R-UT)
  12. Thom Tillis (R-NC)
  13. Todd Young (R-IN)
  14. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
  15. John Hoeven (R-ND)
  16. Kevin Cramer (R-ND)
  17. Susan Collins (R-ME)
  18. Mike Rounds (R-SD)

In recent days, President Joe Biden’s administration has touted the opening of the Made in America Office, which is responsible for reviewing waivers sought to bypass Buy American rules.

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Email him at Follow him on Twitter here. 


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