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President Biden Reaffirms His Commitment to Made in America Infrastructure

President Joe Biden, left, pictured during a tour of Minnesota’s Cummins Power Generation facility on April 3. Photo by White House

In a speech before union workers, the president promised “every federal project is going to be built by American workers, using American products.”

President Biden on Tuesday again pledged that federally funded infrastructure projects will abide by Buy America guidelines, and made sure to note construction materials will be included in that effort.

Just hours after announcing his re-election bid, Biden touted his economic accomplishments before the North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) Legislative Conference. The president notably discussed his progress in growing manufacturing in his remarks, highlighting the 800,000 new factory jobs created during his term and major factory announcements in critical areas like electric vehicles, semiconductors, and clean energy.

And Biden spent a good deal of time talking about the importance of Made in America, especially when it comes to rebuilding infrastructure. Here’s the president:

“As we rebuild America, we’re going to continue to Buy American — Buy American. If you might notice, I’ve been criticized by other countries, by our partners, and even by our Republican friends for buying American. You know, I’ve announced a new standard that all construction materials — all construction materials — used in federal infrastructure projects have to be Made in America. Lumber, glass, drywall, fiber optic cable, and so much more.

“As president, I get to pick projects. I get to fund projects from the money that we get from the Congress. Every federal project is going to be built by American workers, using American products, creating American jobs. What most people didn’t know — I didn’t know it, to be honest with you, eight years ago — that’s been the law since the ’30s, but no one’s had the nerve to insist on it. They used to say, ‘you can’t get the product, you can’t get the workers, you can go somewhere else, look for it.’ Well guess what? I changed that law. It used to be, if you got, if did 40%, it was OK, and so on. No, not anymore. I’m insisting on it. We’re going to spend American tax dollars — Americans are paying the money — and we are going to buy American when we do it.”

Biden’s remarks about Buy America aren’t necessarily surprising, given that he’s been regularly touting the importance of these preferences since his 2020 campaign. But it is important that Biden took the time to reaffirm this commitment today, given that there’s been some opposition to Buy America from those who would like to see a high volume of imports continue to be used in these taxpayer-funded projects.

Here’s one example. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is currently examining a 40-year-old general applicability waiver to Buy America for manufactured products, and importers have been fighting hard to keep the waiver in place.

Doing so would be a huge mistake. The waiver has sent billions in tax dollars offshore, where they are used to buy imported goods needed for infrastructure — instead of reinvesting the money back into local factories and American workers who can make those products locally. It’s been a four-decade long missed opportunity.

We’ve asked the FHWA to finally put an end to the waiver — you can do the same here. But if the the Biden administration has any doubts, it should really just look to its own track record.

Indeed, Biden noted in his speech how policy efforts like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act have contributed to significant economic growth, including 12 million new jobs and $435 billion in critical factory investments. Buy America has been a part of that as well, as companies like Corning have directly cited Buy America as a key incentive for investing in U.S. production.

For decades, the United States “rewarded wealth, not work,” Biden told the crowd on Tuesday. Companies offshored production, the U.S. put corporate profits first — and industrial policy was nonexistent.

The Biden administration, to its credit, is changing that. The president repeatedly has indicated that he understands the importance of buying American and using taxpayer money to invest in our own production needs. Now it’s time to enforce it — and it starts with doing things like revoking outdated waivers that undermine American manufacturers and U.S. factory workers.

“We’re on the cusp of major change,” Biden said in his closing remarks. “We’re creating jobs again.  Manufacturing has come alive again. People can afford decent healthcare. Towns that had been forgotten and left behind for dead are coming alive again because of you all and what we’re doing. Now we’ve just got to keep it going, finish the job.”

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