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‘Buy American’ bill introduced by Ohio senators

Brown, Portman say effort will improve transparency, boost manufacturing jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ohio’s two U.S. senators reached across party lines this week to introduce legislation that they said would improve government transparency and boost manufacturing jobs.

Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman joined their colleagues, Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, to introduce legislation that 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.

The senators said the bill comes in light of evidence that U.S. federal agencies have granted an excessive number of waivers to Buy American laws in the last few years.

“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,” Brown’s office said in a news release. “However, federal agencies overuse this waiver authority. There is currently no government-wide system tracking the use and abuse of these waivers by federal agencies.”

Brown’s office said the new BuyAmerican.gov Act would direct the General Services Administration to establish a central, publicly-available website, called BuyAmerican.gov, to collect and display information about each requested waiver to Buy American laws. They said the website will allow manufacturers and other interested parties to identify contract opportunities and hold federal agencies accountable for abusing Buy American waivers.

“Taxpayer dollars should support American-made products, and our federal agencies should lead the way in promoting U.S. jobs and products,”  Brown said in a news release.

“American workers are the best at what they do, and our federal agencies should always look to them first when awarding government contracts.”

“We must do everything we can to protect and maximize American jobs, and that starts by ensuring that our tax dollars aren’t used to create jobs overseas. Unfortunately, in the last five years alone, U.S. federal agencies have spent $47.7 billion on goods manufactured by foreign firms, resulting in contracts and jobs lost to overseas competitors,” Portman said.

“By improving transparency, the BuyAmerican.gov Act will encourage federal agencies to support American workers and American jobs by faithfully complying with Buy American law. This is a bipartisan bill that is needed now to help protect American jobs.”

Brown and Portman have also introduced legislation that would apply Buy America rules to all federally-funded infrastructure projects.