President Trump will make his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday at a time when too many people feel like their voices aren't being heard. When too many hardworking Wisconsinites feel Washington is broken and isn't working for them.
It’s my hope that instead of bringing a message of “American carnage,” President Trump will lay out a clear plan of action to keep the promises he has made to American workers and manufacturers.
I’m looking forward to attending the address and I have invited Roddy Rice from New London, Wisconsin, to join me. Roddy represents the best of Wisconsin and its work ethic that is second to none. For 38 years, Roddy worked hard in the melt department, pouring hot steel and building quality products at a great Made in Wisconsin manufacturer, Neenah Foundry.
American manufacturers and steel workers, like the men and women who work at Neenah Foundry, today help build our nation’s water infrastructure and they deserve a solid commitment from the president and Congress on a strong Buy America standard that rewards their hard work.
President Trump has talked a lot about his plan to “Buy American and hire American” on the campaign trail, on his “victory tours,” and in his inaugural address. I support that position; however, the Republican establishment in Washington has ignored him. Now is the time for President Trump to decide if he will keep his promises, or go along to get along with congressional Republicans.
I have fought hard for Wisconsin workers by advancing Buy America legislation because I strongly believe American workers should build our infrastructure with American products, and taxpayers' money should not be spent on Chinese iron and steel. Last year, I succeeded in including a provision requiring water infrastructure to be American-made in legislation that passed the Senate 95-3. However, Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans removed this Buy America reform from the Water Infrastructure Improvements Act at the 11th hour, and there has not been a peep, or tweet, from President Trump.
It is clear to me, and it should be clear to President Trump as well, that congressional Republicans are allowing corporate lobbyists working on behalf of companies that import steel from Russia and China to write the rules in Washington. Importers of cheap foreign steel from China and Russia have sought to eliminate or loosen these rules for their own benefit. At a time when people are scared because they can't make ends meet and provide a better future for their children, corporate lobbyists are using their influence over Congress to support clients that do business with Russian and Chinese steel companies at the expense of American workers.
In December, together with Sens. Brown and Casey, I introduced an amendment to restore my Buy America reform and demanded a vote. Majority Leader McConnell blocked a simple request to consider my amendment and obstructed a vote in the Senate.
President Trump has said that we need to “drain the swamp” and that he will take on the lobbyists and special interests who are writing the rules and rigging the game in Washington against American workers. If he is serious about “draining the swamp” and supporting American workers, it is time for him to send a direct message to Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan to stop standing in the way.
President Trump has pledged to put forward a $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan. In January, I joined with Senate Democrats to outline our priorities for that historic investment. Our Blueprint to Rebuild America's Infrastructure would provide billions for strengthening our electric grid, modernizing VA hospitals, rebuilding public schools, expanding transit infrastructure, repairing critical rail systems, funding essential road and bridge improvement projects, rehabilitating water and sewer structures, and much more.
Buy America reforms must be at the foundation of any infrastructure plan. Senate Democrats have made it a core part of our plan. Now our American manufacturers need a solid commitment from President Trump and congressional Republicans, because workers cannot afford to have government spending taxpayer dollars on foreign products. We must rebuild our country’s infrastructure with American labor and American products.
The bottom line is this: We need a major investment in our nation’s infrastructure, we need it now, and President Trump has an opportunity on Tuesday to make clear his plan of action to take on his own party on Buy America reforms.
The last month has been consumed by division and disagreement. How about we focus on something we can all agree on -- the need to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. We will put manufacturers and people to work building it and provide businesses with a stronger transportation system they need to move their goods to market.
People are angry that their hard work isn't respected and rewarded. Let’s work to change that. It’s time we work across party lines to make strong federal investments in our workers and America’s future. Words are not enough, the time to act is now.
Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, represents Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate.
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