Infrastructure

Biden's Protectionist Regulations Undermine His Own Infrastructure Plans

The White House is making it harder for people to request waivers from cost-increasing Buy America requirements in the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law.

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The $1.2 trillion infrastructure law signed by President Joe Biden in November expanded requirements that federally funded infrastructure projects purchase American-made goods and materials. Now, new rules from the administration will make it harder to get waivers from those cost-increasing mandates.

For decades, Buy America laws required that grantees receiving federal funds to build roads, bridges, and rail lines purchase domestically produced steel, iron, and manufactured goods—including rolling stock like buses and trains. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) expanded those Buy America requirements to cover copper wiring, plastics, polymers, drywall, and lumber.

These requirements are known to raise costs and can even make some projects totally infeasible. For that reason, grantees have been allowed to request waivers from Buy America laws when they prove unworkable or raise costs too much.

But on Monday, the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued guidance intended to narrow the use of those waivers for the Buy America provisions of the IIJA.

Typically, requests for those waivers are approved or denied by the federal agencies that provide a project's funding. Monday's guidance, in keeping with an earlier White House executive order, requires these agencies to consult with OMB's Made in America Office when considering waivers for grant awards made with IIJA funds. It also gives OMB's Made in America Office final say over whether these waivers are approved.

The explicit purpose of sending these waivers through OMB is to limit the number and extent of waivers granted. "The purpose of the consultation is to identify any opportunities to structure the waiver in order to maximize the use of goods, products, and materials produced in the United States to the greatest extent possible consistent with law," reads Monday's guidance.

The requirement has angered federal contractors, who argue it will only add more bureaucratic roadblocks to finishing infrastructure projects.

"This is like asking the U.S. Department of Education to verify every child's permission slip to miss a day of school," said Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America yesterday. "Firms will have to spend more time waiting for federal officials to decide whether a project is in compliance with the administration's latest layer of red tape."

Sandherr complains that these requirements are particularly inappropriate at a time when material costs are rising across the board.

Back in December, a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report flagged the expansion of Buy America provisions in IIJA as potentially at odds with other provisions of the law that make new funding available to jurisdictions like counties and municipal bus services. These smaller locales and agencies might lack the experience or staff needed to comply with complicated Buy America laws, the CRS report said. They will also likely have the most trouble navigating a new, more complicated waiver application process.

Making waivers for Buy America provisions harder to obtain reveals the contradictory aims of Biden's infrastructure policy. The president wants to make "historic" investments in infrastructure, but he's also deeply committed to regulations that ensure those investments will buy as little infrastructure as possible.

For instance, the IIJA increases spending on public transportation by some $50 billion over 5 years, a roughly 80 percent increase. Some U.S. transit agencies pay as much as a 70 percent premium on new rail cars compared to their European counterparts, according to transit cost researcher Alon Levy. The domestically manufactured cars they end up with are technologically inferior, says Levy. Getting rid of Buy America requirements for new rail cars and just letting transit agencies import modular products from Europe, as Levy suggests, would seemingly benefit transit agencies almost as much as all that new spending.

One could make a similar argument for the IIJA's stepped-up spending on roads, bridges, and other infrastructure projects, the costs and delivery times of which are increased by Buy America requirements.

Instead, the Biden administration has decided to get less bang for more buck. The new guidance it issued this week only doubles down on that approach.

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  1. All you need to do to get a waiver is buy one of Hunter's paintings for 2 million dollars or so.
    (prices subject to change based on inflation and political party)

  2. Just another nailed in the coffin of a failed administration.

    Good.

    2022 United States elections/Countdown
    In 203 days
    November 8, 2022

    After which it will be a lame duck failed administration

    1. Oh, and Fuck Joe Biden.

      1. Fuck Joe Biden

    2. After which it will be It is a lame duck failed administration.

      1. An optimist, I see.

        I for one will just feel better once he has no chance of getting any thing, or one, through Congress.

    3. Fuck Joe Biden.

    4. Is there literally anything this administration has done better than Trump? Libertarian complain about Trump were about the protectionist tariff policy, worries about law enforcement and criminal justice, potentially Byzantine rules about immigration, concerns about cronyism/corruption, and international embarrassment. Even in just those areas, the biggest problems with Trump, Biden is worse.

      And Trump was astonishingly mediocre as a president. Not like he was a high bar to overcome. It's shocking how bad things have gotten in less than two years.

      1. Trump ended up actually better than mediocre. Certainly near the top of the list of Presidents in office from 1970 on.

        He actually kinda sorta brought peace to the middle east. Got rocket man to stop yelling and come to the table. Definitely made everyone aware of the 'deep state' and the unofficial collusion between senior government officers and media. Oh, and Pedo-Island. We wouldn't know about pedo Island without Trump as a target.

        1. Trump did sign one of the biggest spending bills ever. And he deferred way too much to policy suggestions from epidemiologist that were more about social policy than actual disease control. Then there's SCOTUS-he was basically 1 for 3 (well, ACB might not turn out so bad). And he wasn't so great at nominations to lower courts either. Plus there's plenty of the previous complaints-tariffs. And as much as I'd like to give him credit for Afghanistan, he should have gotten that done two years earlier so it wouldn't hang over to an incompetent administration.

          Poor control and oversight of the CDC also meant we got a lot of misinformation coming out. He also had the most direct evidence any president has ever seen of rampant FBI corruption and he didn't clean house. No pardons for Snowden or Assange, no pardons for the Whitmer defendants....There's so many things he could have done better.

  3. It's interesting to see things that come out of his administration that seem distinctly from his staff rather than him. This is not one of those cases though. This seems to fit everything I've understood about Biden's reasoning over his career.

    1. Biden's reasoning

      LOLOLOLOL

  4. It wasn't an infrastructure plan, it was a spending plan, and rest assured, Biden regime policies will not undermine the spending.

    1. When there is a wallet, there is a way.

  5. Do you think the Biden administration actually wants these infrastructure projects complete? Oh, you sweet little child, you. They don't want these projects even started! Do you realize how much money there is for grift and graft in these infrastructure bills? By the time everyone gets their cut (Has James Biden incorporated his road construction company yet?), there is no money left to buy any material, U.S. produced or otherwise. A great way to keep anything from being done is require American made products (rah rah buy American). Between the manufacturing that has been moved overseas and ones closed down due to governments' response to the flu, I doubt it is possible for it to meet those requirements.

    These projects will be on indefinite hold and come 2089 be included in that infrastructure bill that will be herald as absolutely necessary to stop climate change. Top on their list though will be the paving of Hwy 95 which by then will have reverted to a dirt path from Florida to Virginia since President Abrams stopped asphalt from being used in road projects back in 2033.

  6. You know what? Good. We need to stop federally finding infrastructure projects. There is very little in this country that is truly interstate - so the feds can help out with that little and the states can manage infrastructure inside the states.

    As such, IMO, anything that make federal 'help' on an infrastructure project less attractive is good.

    1. I don't disagree, but this will not stop the ridiculous amount of money from being spent... just being spent more efficiently. The infrastructure bill wasn't about actually about constructing infrastructure, it was about paying off Demo constituencies and defining a large enough dollar amount that they could point at and pretend to be taking shit seriously.

  7. "The requirement has angered federal contractors, who argue it will only add more bureaucratic roadblocks to finishing infrastructure projects."

    It's a feature, not a bug. The more government by executive fiat, the better (for some).

  8. Week Posts US News Updates US Entertainment Updates europe News Updates tech News Updates
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    ything from being done is require American made products (rah rah buy American). Between the manufacturing that has been moved overseas and ones closed down due to governments' response to the flu, I doubt it is possible for it to meet those requirements.

    These projects will be on indefin

  10. US Entertainment Updates
    UK News Updates
    We need to stop federally finding infrastructure projects. There is very little in this country that is truly interstate - so the feds can help out with that little and the states can manage infrastructure inside the stat

  11. Tech Today News Pedia
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    ut this will not stop the ridiculous amount of money from being spent... just being spent more efficiently. The i

  12. Biden's Protectionist Regulations Undermine His Own Infrastructure Plans

    As libertarians, we all know that the cheapest and fastest way to build new infrastructure is with Chinese and Mexican slave labor! /sarc

    1. The Chinese do excel at building durable border walls

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