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Economic Stimulus Bill Contains Buy American Provisions That Could Include Textile Products

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

The economic stimulus bill passed by the Senate has a "Buy American" provision covering iron and steel and other manufactured products used in construction, but does not include the specific textile measure passed by the House.

The Senate version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 mandates that iron and steel and manufactured goods purchased for public works projects funded by the act be made in the United States unless an international obligation would require that bidding be open to foreign manufacturers. Textile products could be included in the category of "other manufactured goods." The Senate version of the bill does not include anything similar to the Kissell amendment, sponsored in the House of Representatives by Rep. Larry Kissell, D-N.C. That amendment would expand the "Buy American" requirements in the so-called Berry Amendment covering Department of Defense (DoD) purchases of uniforms and other textile products to cover Department of Homeland Security (DHS) procurement. The Kissell amendment specifically covers uniforms purchased by the Transportation Security Administration, but it could be expanded through negotiations with other countries to include other agencies such as Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the US Immigration and Naturalization Service. DHS reportedly is opposing the Kissell amendment.

Saying inclusion of the Kissell amendment in the final legislation is essential because of its job-producing potential, Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations, noted that the amendment simply adopts a procurement system that has been in effect for the DoD for more than 60 years, and it already includes the Coast Guard. He urged Congress to ignore what he called "disingenuous outcries" that the bill is protectionist and to include "Buy American" in the interest of creating jobs in a way that will not require any additional expenditure of taxpayer money.

The fate of that measure and the other "Buy American" provisions will have to be hashed out in a House-Senate conference committee.

February 10, 2009