U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said Monday he will try again this year to pass legislation forcing the U.S. Defense Department to consider a project’s impact on American jobs when it awards contracts to manufacturers.
Murphy said he will introduce the bill on Tuesday, the first day of the recently-elected 114th Congress.
“We should be using American taxpayer dollars to create jobs here in America rather than using them to create jobs overseas,” Murphy said at a press conference in Hartford.
The bill, which Murphy has previously introduced in both the Senate and House, would allow the military to weigh a project’s employment impact in addition to other factors like the cost or the quality of a bid. Jobs are not currently one of the factors the Defense Department is permitted to consider.
“Most of my constituents are stunned that this isn’t the law already. That when awarding a contract, the Department of Defense or the Army or the Navy or the Air Force is forbidden under current law from awarding a bid to an American company because it would be better for the American economy,” he said.
About a quarter of the $700 billion spent on defense manufacturing over the past five years has gone to overseas manufacturers, according to Murphy.
“That is terrible for our economy — $163 billion over the last five years going from American taxpayers to overseas companies — but it’s also terrible for the security of this country when we are making more and more of the parts necessary to protect our country overseas, we put our national security at risk,” he said.
Murphy said the legislation is opposed by the Defense Department, which tries to find the cheapest ways to adhere to its own budget limitations. It is also opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization, which Murphy acknowledges holds a great deal of influence among the newly-minted Republican Senate majority.
Murphy said he currently has no Republican co-sponsors for the bill. But he is optimistic it could pass as an amendment to another defense bill.
Representatives of labor unions and a manufacturers association voiced their support for the legislation during Monday’s press conference. Jamison Scott, a former president of New Haven Manufacturers Association, called the bill “simply common sense.”
Connecticut AFL-CIO head Lori Pelletier said if unions and manufacturers can find common ground on the bill, lawmakers should pass it unanimously.
“Any legislator who doesn’t support this is, in our book, un-American and a traitor to this country because we should be worrying about America first,” she said.
Murphy pointed to successes in other aspects of his “Buy American” agenda. The Defense Department has been less willing in recent years to grant waivers to a law requiring that a company awarded a defense contract build half the project’s components in the states. Between 2011 and 2013, the number of waivers granted by the DoD dropped from 47,000 to 28,000.
“The trend line is heading in the right way and we’re going to find some innovative ways to keep this fight up,” he said.
One of those efforts will involve an expected debate in the Senate over the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Murphy said he and other lawmakers are planning to try to amend a bill authorizing the pipeline to require that the parts and machinery for the project come from U.S.-based companies.