Donald Trump may have positioned himself as the champion of American workers but Republicans on the Hill are already embracing his “do as I say, not as I do” modus operandi. Under the backing of Paul Ryan, the GOP leadership stripped a provision from a water bill Monday that would have required American-made iron and steel products to be used in infrastructure projects
in Flint and elsewhere funded by the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown blasted Republicans, who removed the “Buy America” provision (which passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support) while the House and Senate were reconciling the bills. In other words, GOP leadership scrapped it behind closed doors.
“By stripping meaningful Buy America rules from the water infrastructure bill, Washington leadership is choosing China and Russia over Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin,” said Brown. “This was the first major test of whether Washington establishment Republicans would live up to President-elect Trump’s promises to put American products and American workers first – they failed, and American iron and steel workers will pay the price.”
Now, Brown is teaming up with Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania to insert the provision back in the bill.
They want to reattach the provision to a nearly $12 billion Water Resource Development Act (WRDA), which authorizes dozens of infrastructure projects around the country and is on track to pass the House this week.
“I’m not giving up on this fight,” Baldwin said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “Why would we pass a bill that only benefits Russian and Chinese steel corporations when we could be providing certainty to American manufacturers of steel and iron?”
That sentiment was shared by some steelworker groups earlier this week:
“From our end it’s a little baffling,” said Roy Houseman, a legislative representative for the United Steelworkers. “It’s been a program that’s been really successful, and it has bipartisan support. We’re just very confused by the Speaker, who’s not listening to the rest of his caucus.”
In essence, “Buy America” sounds as nice to Republicans as it did to Trump, but in practice they would rather preserve the "Buy Chinese" option that Trump uses to build his skyscrapers.