Sen. Chris Murphy told manufacturers Friday he’s forging an unlikely alliance with President Trump to boost U.S. manufacturing by trying to close loopholes allowing federal agencies to buy goods made outside the United States.
Murphy met with a group of manufacturers, business representatives and others in Waterbury to outline his legislation, the BuyAmerican.gov Act. The measure would allow government watchdogs, businesses and the public to see waivers that federal agencies use to avoid Buy American requirements.
“As many of you know I have deep policy disagreements with this president and I don’t make any bones about it,” Murphy said. “I’m not shy about expressing the places where I disagree with him. But I’ve said from the beginning that there are places where I can work with him that will help Connecticut create jobs here.”
Connecticut’s junior Democratic senator has sharply criticized Trump over Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare and the president’s policies on illegal immigration. But Murphy pushed that aside to express appreciation to the Trump administration for helping build GOP support for the bill.
“I thank the Trump administration, frankly, despite the fact I’m often in the media criticizing him,” Murphy said.
The legislation would provide details online about opportunities for manufacturers and others to win federal contracts and hold federal agencies accountable for what Murphy said is an abuse of Buy American waivers.
Since 2012, federal agencies have purchased $868.47 billion on manufactured products. Nearly 6 percent, or $47.73 billion, was spent on contracts outside the U.S. with waivers of federal rules, Murphy said.
Most of those purchases, $713.3 billion, were made by the Defense Department, which buys equipment for ships, planes, tanks, ammunition and countless other pieces of equipment, in addition to uniforms and other products. Waivers amounted to $42.9 billion, or 6 percent.
While that percentage is small, an audit by the the U.S. Department of Defense inspector general and cited by Murphy showed that a Pentagon agency failed to comply with federal law requiring the Department of Defense give preference in procurement to domestically produced, manufactured or home-grown products in 19 of 32 contracts reviewed. The value of the contracts was more than $450 million.
The director of acquisitions at the Defense Logistics Agency said officials “generally agreed” with the findings and recommendations and will modify contracts identified as deficient to include details of federal laws. The agency also said it will provide training to contracting personnel.
Dave Berardinelli, sales manager at The Platt Brothers & Co., a Waterbury manufacturer of zinc mill products, told Murphy that subsidies of foreign competitors by other governments are undermining his business.
Platt Brothers makes surface coating made of a zinc aluminum alloy used on munitions. Enforcement of Buy American rules would help the company overcome unfair foreign competition, he said.
“It’s really crippling,” Berardinelli said in an interview.