Friday, Aug 17, 2018
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Editorials

Buying American is the law

Brown-Portman

Sen. Rob Portman and Sen. Sherrod Brown have co-sponsored a bill that aims to close up loopholes exploited by purchasing agents.

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Since the 1930s, Congress has passed a series of laws that requires government agencies to buy American when shopping for material. But too many purchasing agents are exploiting loopholes in those laws so they can buy from foreign suppliers instead.

Ohio’s Republican Sen. Rob Portman and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown have co-sponsored a bill that aims to close up those loopholes.

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Their Buy American.gov Act would create a public database that American manufacturers could consult to check if their goods might be used on federal projects. Government agencies would would have to post information on items they need to purchase before seeking a waiver to existing buy-American laws to buy from foreign companies instead.

The waivers are granted when American-made goods for a specific project are not available, or are substantially more expensive than foreign counterparts.

But, over the years, the number of waivers granted to buy foreign items has become excessive. Federal agencies have spent $47.7 billion on items from foreign manufacturers in the last five years. The Department of Defense was the biggest spender with almost $200 billion spent on foreign-made goods since 2007.

“Sometimes they use the excuse that they can’t find American goods,” Mr. Portman told The Blade’s editorial board. “But this site would address that.”

Mr. Brown says federal agencies supported with American tax dollars ought to be leading the way in supporting American manufacturing and products. He’s absolutely right.

Their bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) would direct the General Services Administration to create a public website, BuyAmerican.gov, with information about every requested waiver to buy-American provisions. American manufacturers would be able to check over possible contract opportunities on the site.

It seems surprising that such a website does not already exist because it is an obvious tool to help hold federal agencies accountable.

American manufacturers should be at the front of the line when American tax dollars are being spent on projects. Congress should make quick work of passing this bill.

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