Senate Passes Brown Amendment To Strengthen “Buy America,” Support Ohio-Made Steel

Amendment Improves Transparency, Closes Loophole That Allowed Chinese-Made Steel to be Used in the Oakland, Calif.-Bay Bridge; Legislation Supports Jobs at Cleveland’s ArcelorMittal and Cliffs Natural Resources, Marion’s Nucor, and Middletown’s AK Steel

WASHINGTON, D.C. – An amendment to the Senate Transportation bill offered by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to strengthen “Buy America” provisions and support Ohio-made steel has cleared the Senate. The legislation benefits several Ohio steel companies, including ArcelorMittal and Cliffs Natural Resources in Cleveland; Nucor, located in Marion; and AK Steel in Middletown.

“‘Buy America’ provisions support Ohio jobs and Ohio businesses. We leave our manufacturing sector vulnerable when we buy steel and iron from foreign countries. When taxpayer dollars are invested in highway and infrastructure projects, they should be spent on American-made goods,” Brown said. “With companies like ArcelorMittal, Nucor, and AK Steel making steel right here in Ohio, there’s no reason why countries like China, Russia, and Brazil should be doing it for us. By strengthening ‘Buy America’ requirements for highways and infrastructure, we not only support American jobs, but we eliminate the need to rely on foreign nations for vital manufactured materials.”

“Buy America” provisions support American companies and workers by giving a preference to domestically-produced iron, steel, and other manufactured goods in infrastructure projects that receive federal aid. They are administered by several Department of Transportation agencies, with common-sense exceptions that permit waivers to allow the procurement of foreign-made products when there is insufficient domestic capacity, if the cost of the domestic product is unreasonable, or when the administering agency deems the waiver to be in the public interest.

However, over time, the effectiveness of “Buy America” preferences has been compromised by various loopholes to avoid sourcing goods and materials domestically. One of the most egregious examples is “segmentation,” whereby a project is split into various contracts and federal aid is not used on those where the contractor intends to use foreign iron, steel, and manufactured goods – bypassing American workers and evading the law. This loophole allowed Chinese-made steel to be used in the new Oakland, California Bay Bridge. Closing this loophole helps to ensure that Buy America is effectively enforced.

Brown’s legislation would require the Department of Transportation to improve transparency and reporting of proposed Buy America waivers, without unnecessary project delays, and ensure an annual accounting of federal funds used to purchase foreign-produced iron and steel. It also closes a loophole that permits the evasion of “Buy America” in some public works projects. The legislation also explicitly requires that Buy America preferences be carried out in a manner consistent with the United States’ international trade agreements.

“Today’s Senate action is a positive step in closing the loopholes in existing law and ensuring that “Buy America” standards are upheld in transportation projects. We are thankful for Senator Brown’s leadership in ensuring that U.S. taxpayer dollars buy American-made steel, helping to protect ArcelorMittal’s operations, our 1,700 hardworking Cleveland employees, and the local and regional economies that the steel industry supports,” said Eric Hauge, Vice President and General Manager, ArcelorMittal Cleveland.

A longtime supporter of Ohio’s steel industry, Brown has launched a multipronged effort to support Ohio steelmakers in response to relaxed regulations that undermine “Buy America” requirements intended to support the domestic steel industry.

  • Under Defense Department regulations, specialty metals procured for defense purposes—including steel armor plate—must be produced in the United States.  Despite more than 35 years of practice requiring that steel armor plate be both melted and finished in the United States, the Defense Department issued guidance in 2009 that allowed armor plate melted in outside countries—including Russia and China—to be imported and subjected to simple finishing processes in the United States, then deemed to have been “produced” domestically.  Such a practice hurts Ohio steelmakers and steel jobs, and puts our national security at risk by subjecting our armor plate supply to the whims of foreign nations. Brown’s bill, the United States Steel and Security Act, would require that steel purchased by the U.S. military be 100 percent “made in America”— both melted and finished in the United States.
  • Brown is also a co-author of the Invest in American Jobs Act, which would strengthen existing “Buy America” requirements for investments in highway, bridge, public transit, rail, and aviation infrastructure and equipment to ensure that all of the steel, iron, and manufactured goods used in these projects are produced in the United States.

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