President Joe Biden will sign an executive order strengthening Buy American policies on Monday. While such provisions, which encourage federal agencies to buy U.S.-made products, already exist, they’re filled with loopholes and haven’t always been followed.
“Existing Buy American rules establish a domestic content threshold—the amount of a product that must be made in the U.S. for a purchase to qualify under Buy American law,” a White House fact sheet explains. “This Executive Order directs an increase in both the threshold and the price preferences for domestic goods—the difference in price over which government can by a product from a non-US supplier. It also updates how government decides if a product was sufficiently made in America, building a stronger foundation for the enforcement of Buy American laws.”
Enforcement is always an issue, which is why it’s important that Biden’s executive order also sets up a new director of Made in America position at the Office of Management and Budget to ensure there’s follow-through on the good intentions behind the order. Also included are a review process for when agencies seek waivers on Buy American requirements, and biannual reports on agency implementation of the requirements. In other words: No, really, we mean it this time.
While Donald Trump made a big deal of signing Buy American orders, his administration didn’t finalize it until he was almost out of office. Biden is setting a 180-day deadline for changes to take effect.
Labor leaders hailed the move.
“The Trump administration used the right words but never put in place policies to affect meaningful change. This executive order will close loopholes that allow agencies to sidestep Buy American requirements and increase the thresholds for domestic content,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement. “We know that when America’s workers are given a level playing field, we can compete with anyone. This order is a good first step in revitalizing U.S. manufacturing, which Trump’s policies failed to do over the past four years.”
According to United Steelworkers President Tom Conway, ”Today’s order strengthening domestic content requirements, closing loopholes in how domestic content is measured and calling for stricter enforcement of existing legislation like the Jones Act is an important step toward revitalizing our manufacturing base, as well as protecting and creating thousands of good, family-sustaining jobs.”
Biden continues using executive orders to do what he can, but on so many important things, Congress will need to act.
This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on January 25, 2021. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson has been a contributing editor since December 2006. Clawson has been full-time staff since 2011, and is currently assistant managing editor at the Daily Kos.