CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., said Thursday that he had moved to include an amendment in a transportation funding bill to close loopholes allowing construction companies to use imported products.
"One thing that we should be able to agree on now, right now, is that every taxpayer dollar spent constructing highway, transit, and rail projects should help create jobs in America and not overseas," Rahall, ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said on the House floor on Thursday.
The House is likely to vote on Rahall's motion today.<co Friday>
"American workers are still struggling to find work as our economy slowly recovers from the worst economic recession since the Great Depression," said Rahall. "The construction and manufacturing sectors have been particularly hard hit. More than 56,000 U.S. factories have closed or moved overseas in the last 10 years and 90,000 more manufacturing firms, most of which are small businesses, are at risk of going out of business.
Since 2009, federal transportation programs have operated under a series of short-term extensions, often for only 90 days.
Beginning in the 1950s, Congress routinely passed federal highway and transportation bills that provided funding over six-year periods.
The Senate recently passed a two-year transportation bill, while the House of Representatives passed a 90-day extension of current legislation.
A Senate/House conference committee is working to resolve differences in the legislation. The 47-member conference committee includes Rahall; Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.; and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.
Rahall said specific provisions in his motion would help guarantee all steel, iron and manufactured goods used for highway, transit and railroad projects will be made in the United States.
Today, existing loopholes allow highway, transit, and rail contractors to subdivide their federal funds among smaller, separate contracts, exempting most of their work from rules that require buying from American companies, he said.
Rahall wants specific provisions making it harder for construction companies to manipulate federal construction funds, including:
* Prohibiting segmentation of highway, transit and Amtrak projects into several different contracts.
* Requiring companies to issue public notices, and allow the public to comment, on all requests to waive requirements to buy American products.
* Requiring detailed reviews of any longstanding waivers on the use of American products for highway and rail projects.
* Requiring an annual report listing all waivers granted by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at email@example.com