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Michigan senators move to tighten Buy American rules

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News

Washington — Michigan's senators plan to reintroduce bipartisan legislation that would close loopholes in a law that requires the government to buy American-made products when possible, the senators' offices announced Tuesday. 

The bill would make changes to a nearly 70-year-old law that prioritizes American companies in government purchasing.

The law includes exceptions and waivers for when there's limited availability and quality of U.S.-made products, it's in the public interest, the goods would be used in a different country or they're being purchased from a country that has special trade agreements with the U.S. 

Ford line workers put together ventilators May 13, 2020, at the Ford Rawsonville plant in Ypsilanti Township.

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The legislation will be introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and co-sponsored by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township. Two Republicans, Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana and Rob Portman of Ohio will also be co-sponsors, along with Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin.

The bill would tighten restrictions around those waivers, which Stabenow argues has been abused to the detriment of American manufacturers. 

“Michigan’s workers and manufacturers are the best in the world. This bill would make sure they are first in line when it comes to government contracts and spending," Stabenow said in a statement. "It’s common sense that American tax dollars should be used to create American jobs by purchasing American products, not products made overseas."

The bill would bar using the public interest waiver if a foreign contract would decrease employment in the U.S., would increase the requirement of American-made content in products from 50% to 75%, and would require that waivers be posted online with justifications, according to a joint statement. 

"Ensuring that the federal government is spending taxpayer dollars on products made by American workers will create jobs and level the playing field for our small businesses and manufacturers," Peters said. 

The legislation would also create an office within the federal Office of Management and Budget that would review waivers to the act for compliance and give small- and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers the first shot at federal transportation products. 

According to a report compiled by Stabenow's office in 2018, billions of dollars have been spent on foreign auto products, particularly in the Defense Department. Other Michigan industries such as aerospace, electronics and furniture manufacturing may benefit from changes in the law, Stabenow contended.

President Joe Biden issued an executive order last month that directs executive branch agencies to make similar changes. 


Twitter: @rbeggin