The good news about the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill is that it’s a bit shorter than Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time.”
The thing about Proust, however, is that you have the rest of your life to work through “In Search of Lost Time” — or not, as the case may be. A boxed set also costs only $29.90 in paperback.
On the other hand, the Senate’s infrastructure bill — which would set us back at least $550 billion in new spending, according to a White House fact sheet — was released on Saturday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says he wants to “quickly process relevant amendments to pass this bill in a matter of days.”
What’s taking so long? Romney told me that they are correcting all the “its and ats.”
Schumer was supposed to come to the floor around 2:15 with what was expected to be the final update. We are still waiting. https://t.co/Rrbk3KZIdP
— Leigh Ann Caldwell (@LACaldwellDC) August 1, 2021
That’s a bit more time-sensitive than a meandering French novel about truth and memory, which means some things are bound to get lost in the process of debating the bill.
Take one of the more odious provisions tucked away in the package that hasn’t gotten much play: A provision that allows lawmakers to circumvent a “Buy American” rule in the legislation.
As Breitbart’s John Binder noted, the bill requires that those in charge of federal agencies to ensure, within 180 days after the legislation comes into effect, that “none of the funds made available for” the infrastructure projects under their purview “may be obligated … unless all of the iron, steel, manufactured products, and construction materials used in the project are produced in the United States.”
Fair enough, right? After all, as long as we’re making it rain infrastructure-style, we’d better make sure that money stays in America.
But right below that rule are various ways to circumvent it.
“The head of a Federal agency that applies a domestic content procurement preference under this section may waive the application of that preference in any case which the head of the Federal agency finds” one of three separate things.
First, that “applying the domestic content procurement preference would be inconsistent with the public interest.”
Next, that “types of iron, steel, manufactured products, or construction materials are not produced in the United States in sufficient and reasonably available quantities or of a satisfactory quality.”
Finally, that “the inclusion of iron, steel, manufactured products, or construction materials produced in the United States will increase the cost of the overall project by more than 25 percent.”
The relevant portion is on page 2,326 of this magnum opus, although feel free to read the first 2,325 pages of this masterpiece if you’ve already made your way through Proust and need some light reading before you start on Robert Caro’s four-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson.
But joking aside, these aren’t trivial matters. Keep in mind that much of the “infrastructure” in the infrastructure bill has to do with energy. As Breitbart’s James Pinkerton noted in a July 24 piece, that’s an arena in which China holds some major advantages over the United States, particularly in regards to solar panels.
Pinkerton wrote that “the Biden administration wants more power to come from solar, which means solar panels — 80 percent of which are made in China. (The U.S.-made share of the world market for panels is in the low single digits).”
“So we can see: If we rush to install solar panels in the U.S., they will have to come from overseas, most likely China. Which is to say, the jobs for Americans will be as low-value-added solar-panel installers, not high-value-added solar-panel manufacturers.” (Emphasis in the original.)
And that was the hook, right? We were supposed to be reaping the rewards in American employment opportunities. Remember, how President Joe Biden billed it: “The American Jobs Plan.”
When he announced the initiative on March 31, according to a White House transcript, Biden said the plan “will create millions of jobs, good-paying jobs. It will grow the economy, make us more competitive around the world, promote our national security interests, and put us in a position to win the global competition with China in the upcoming years.”
In reality, the plan includes a carveout that allows bureaucrats to circumvent the “Buy American” clause in the bill if the materials needed can be purchased cheaper elsewhere or if they’re not produced in significant enough quantities in the United States.
One of the countries where much of the purchasing will likely be done? China, which is where a lot of those jobs could be going.
Look on the bright side, though: If you end up missing out on employment because the government outsourced contracts for materials to other countries, at least you’ll have time to read Proust.
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