Columns

Dems Have 'Buy American' Suggestions for Trump, But White House Not Responding

(Shutterstock image)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said he reached out to the Trump administration with some recommendations for executive orders that President Trump could sign to increase the federal government’s use of American products for federal projects, but has not received an answer.

Murphy held a conference call with Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) on Wednesday to announce opposition to building the Keystone XL pipeline with foreign steel. Trump had said at CPAC last month that the project would be built with American steel.

Even though the pipeline is private and not a federal project, Murphy said energy infrastructure inside the United States such as the Keystone Pipeline is a national security issue.

“If we were to lose the ability to be able to make pipeline technology in the United States and only China was able to make it, that would put the country at national security risk – so there’s certain technologies like energy technology that clearly make sense to apply a ‘buy America’ standard,” Murphy said.

Baldwin said taxpayers want to see their tax dollars support U.S. products and U.S. jobs.

“Seeing those dollars support jobs overseas is something that we need to be concerned about also as policymakers,” she said.

Murphy said he sent Trump several examples of executive actions he could take to boost the amount of American purchasing that’s done by the federal government.

“The president really likes to sign executive orders, so I sent him five that would increase American content in goods bought by the federal government, especially the U.S. military. I haven’t gotten a response from the Trump administration. I don’t know whether he likes these executive orders or whether he hates them,” he said. “I can’t get any response from the White House when it comes to the potential to work with him when it comes to strengthening ‘buy American’ protections. It’s beginning to seem like Trump’s talk on ‘buy American’ is just like a lot of hot air.”

Murphy and Baldwin indicated they are ready and willing to work with Trump on “buy American” initiatives.

“He’s got Democrats like me and Tammy who are willing to work with him to make sure that when projects are funded by the federal government those projects go to U.S. companies and to make sure when we move forward with controversial projects like the Keystone pipeline that they get built with American steel,” Murphy said. “I’m very disappointed that there seems to be a disconnect between campaign rhetoric and administration policy when it comes to ‘buy American.’”

Baldwin said Trump should follow through on his promise and make “concrete ‘buy American’” commitments.

“President Trump so far has shown that he will talk the talk when it comes to ‘buy American’ but he won’t walk the walk. And that’s a shame because right now too many people feel like their voices aren’t being heard and too many hardworking Wisconsinites feel like Washington is broken and isn’t working for them,” she said. “Now President Trump can’t just play lip service to Wisconsin workers. He really needs to keep his promise and make real, concrete ‘buy American’ commitments.”

Murphy accused Trump of moving forward on the pipeline to grow oil industry profits.

“He made it clear that his priority was going to be making sure that the Keystone pipeline was built with American steel. Now we know it’s not being built with American steel and it’s still moving forward – that’s because Donald Trump doesn’t want to build the pipeline to grow jobs,” he said. “He wants to build the pipeline to grow oil industry profits – that’s what it’s been about from the very beginning.”

Murphy vowed to keep the pressure on to show the administration that Democrats are willing to work with Trump if he chooses to get “sincere” about his “buy American” campaign pledges.

A White House spokeswoman said Trump’s U.S. steel pledge applies to new pipelines or pipelines being repaired.

“The way that executive order is written,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, according to the AP, “it’s specific to new pipelines or those that are being repaired. Since this one is already currently under construction, the steel is already literally sitting there; it would be hard to go back.”

Murphy said he and Baldwin are simply trying to hold Trump to his commitment about the Keystone pipeline steel, even though it is a private project.

“He didn’t make some vague commitment that some pipelines would be built with American steel. He made a specific commitment that the Keystone pipeline would be built with American steel. We are simply holding him to his words,” Murphy said.