Thursday, November 9, 2023

Senate votes in favor of rescinding Biden waiver of ‘Buy America’ requirements for steel, iron in EV chargers

The Senate on Wednesday voted in favor of getting rid of the Biden administration’s exemption from “buy America” requirements for electric vehicle (EV) charger components.

The vote was 50-48. Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Jon Tester (Mont.), as well as Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) voted with more Republicans in favor of removing the exemption. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was the only Republican to vote “no.”

It was intended to overturn a waiver issued by the Biden administration in February that exempted steel, iron and construction materials used to make electric vehicle chargers from the “Buy America” restrictions.

The waiver allows the administration to fund chargers made with foreign materials through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. It will only apply if the final assembly of the chargers occurs in the U.S.

The administration has a broader goal of building out a network of electric vehicle chargers to support the transition to electric vehicles and mitigate climate change. Adequate charging infrastructure is seen as a major hurdle in this shift.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who sponsored the resolution to get rid of the waiver, said in a written statement ahead of the vote that the administration is “directing taxpayer dollars toward foreign-made EV chargers.”

Ahead of the vote, the White House threatened to veto it , arguing that the resolution would actually undermine domestic manufacturing for the chargers. This is because without the waiver, chargers would fall under a general Reagan-era waiver exempting most manufactured products from the “Buy America” requirements, the White House said.

“The Administration’s policy immediately requires that EV chargers purchased through FHWA grants be manufactured in the United States,” the White House said.

“The policy is also phasing in additional Buy America domestic content requirements for EV chargers over the next year to align with the thresholds set forth by Congress,” it added.

Supporters of the administration’s policy also pointed to investments that have recently been made in domestic electric vehicle charging.

“Since enacting the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law nearly two years ago, the electric vehicle charging industry has announced investments of over $500 million in more than 40 plants for assembling American-made EV chargers,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) in a floor speech.“ These plants — in states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, North Carolina and other states — are bringing more manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.”

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