The top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has introduced legislation that would expand federal "Buy America" requirements to new types of federally aided projects, including wastewater treatment plants.
But the measure, which Rep. Nick Rahall (W.Va.) introduced on March 5, has no Republican backers so far, and his proposal has sparked opposition from a major Canadian business organization.
The current Buy America mandate specifies that all steel, iron and manufactured prouducts used in federally funded highway and other projects must be produced in the U.S. The requirement has been a contentious issue between the U.S. and Canada over the past several years. For example, it flared up in 2009, when a Buy America provision was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Rahall’s new measure would widen Buy America mandates beyond highway and transit infrastructure. It would have the procurement requirements also apply to clean-water state revolving funds, which finance wastewater treatment facilities; rail infrastructure grants and loans; and grants from the Commerce Dept.’s Economic Development Administration.
The House transportation committee’s legislative agenda this year includes a passenger-rail authorization measure.
As the bill's 29 initial co-sponsors are all Democrats, it would seem the bill faces an uphill battle in a chamber controlled by the Republicans.
The measure does have support from business groups, such as the National Steel Bridge Alliance and the Alliance for American Manufacturing, and labor unions, including the United Steelworkers and International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
But Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), a leading business organization in that country, sees the Rahall bill as “highly disconcerting,” says Birgit Matthiesen, CME's Washington, D.C., representative. She says the measure’s proposed expansion to wastewater treatment projects is “highly problematic to us.”