MURPHY CALLS FOR STRENGTHENED BUY AMERICA PROVISIONS IN LONG-TERM SURFACE TRANSPORTATION BILL

Murphy and Rep. Lipinski (D-Ill.) urge negotiators to preserve provisions that enhance Buy America requirements & reject those that weaken Buy America laws

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representative Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) called on the bipartisan leaders of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act Conference Committee to strengthen and protect Buy America provisions in the long-term surface transportation bill. In a letter to U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and U.S. Representatives Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Murphy and Lipinski emphasized that transportation investment should not only improve our nation’s infrastructure, but also create jobs. Murphy and Lipinski specifically urged the leaders to preserve two provisions in the House and Senate bills that would enhance Buy American provisions, and to reject two provisions in the Senate version of the bill that would weaken Buy America provisions.  

As part of a continued effort to protect and grow manufacturing jobs in Connecticut, Murphy has introduced two Buy American bills – the 21st Century Buy American Act and the American Jobs Matter Act – and passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that will strengthen existing standards and prioritize the purchase of American-manufactured goods.

“With an opportunity to pass the first truly long-term surface transportation reauthorization since 2005, it is imperative that this law does everything possible to improve American infrastructure and create jobs for people around the country,” Murphy and Lipinski.  “Specifically, we support provisions that increase the domestic content of rolling stock procured with Federal Transit Administration funds from 60% to 70%. We also urge you to maintain provisions found in the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 that codifies Buy America requirements for Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) loans.

Murphy and Lipinski continued, “While the House and Senate bills contain the positive aforementioned provisions, there are two troubling provisions that we urge you to rejectFirst, Section 35313 of the Senate bill increases Amtrak’s procurement threshold for Buy America applicability from $1 million to $5 million. Second, a provision in Section 21013 of the Senate bill would shift responsibilities and burdens of proof in the waiver process in a manner that would make granting Buy America waivers easier. This would undermine successful past efforts to strengthen the waiver process. Accordingly, we ask that you reject both of these provisions. We strongly encourage you to hold firm in strengthening our Buy America laws.”

The full text of the letter is below:

The Honorable Bill Shuster
Chairman
Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Jim Inhofe
Chairman
Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Peter DeFazio
Ranking Member
Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Barbara Boxer
Ranking Member
Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Shuster, Chairman Inhofe, Ranking Member DeFazio, and Ranking Member Boxer:

As you work to complete the conference report for a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill, we urge you to preserve certain provisions in the House and Senate bills that strengthen Buy America provisions and to reject certain provisions in the Senate bill that would weaken Buy America provisions. With an opportunity to pass the first truly long-term surface transportation reauthorization since 2005, it is imperative that this law does everything possible to improve American infrastructure and create jobs for people around the country.

Specifically, we support provisions in both bills that increase the domestic content of rolling stock procured with Federal Transit Administration funds from 60% to 70%. This modest increase is phased in incrementally over the next five years and will ensure that equipment used and paid for by taxpayers is manufactured with a higher percentage of American-made materials. These provisions should be maintained in the final conference report, along with Section 3009 of the House-passed bill, which makes Buy America compliance an eligible activity for technical assistance and will help our transit community comply with these important requirements.

We also urge you to maintain provisions found in H.R. 749, the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (PRRIA) as you reconcile differences between that legislation and the rail title included in the Senate bill. Section 303 of PRRIA codifies Buy America requirements for Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) loans, a program that has the capacity to provide $35 billion in direct loans and loan guarantees for rail infrastructure improvements. As the House and Senate work to modernize this program in a manner that allows more applicants to utilize and spend down its balance, it is critical that this program abide by domestic content standards that are applicable to other transportation investment programs.

While the House and Senate bills contain the positive aforementioned provisions, there are two troubling provisions that we urge you to reject. First, Section 35313 of the Senate bill increases Amtrak’s procurement threshold for Buy America applicability from $1 million to $5 million. Had this increased threshold been in place for this fiscal year, at least 85% of Amtrak’s anticipated capital projects would have been exempt from Buy America requirements. Additionally, this increase opens the possibility of procurements being segmented into smaller contracts to avoid meeting the new threshold, thus creating even more Buy America exemptions. Second, Section 21013 of the Senate bill changes how waiver requests for transit procurements are handled. Specifically, a provision in this section would shift responsibilities and burdens of proof in the waiver process in a manner that would make granting Buy America waivers easier. This would undermine successful past efforts to strengthen the waiver process to make it more accountable and effective and it should not be included. Accordingly, we ask that you reject both of these provisions.

The purpose of a surface transportation reauthorization is not only to improve our nation’s infrastructure, but also to create jobs for our workforce. A strong Buy America component is crucial to this effort and we strongly encourage you to hold firm in strengthening our Buy America laws.

Sincerely,

Christopher S. Murphy
United States Senator

Dan Lipinski
United States Congressman