The Senate voted to reverse President Biden's 'buy in America' waiver for electric vehicle chargers

November 10, 2023

The Senate recently passed a resolution disapproving of the Biden administration's decision to exempt government-funded electric chargers from "Buy America" standards.

This likely adds yet another layer of complexity to the White House's push to electrify vehicles, as The Washington Examiner reported.

The proposal has a good chance of passing the GOP-controlled House, but the White House has already promised to veto it.

The resolution, which was spearheaded by Republicans, passed with a 50-48 majority thanks to the support of three Democrats: Senators Sherrod Brown (OH), Joe Manchin (WV), and Jon Tester (MT). Rand Paul (R-KY), a member of the Republican Party, cast a no vote.

Federal infrastructure projects, such as electric vehicle chargers, are mandated by the Buy America provisions of the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure plan to source at least 55% of their construction materials from domestic sources and be entirely made in the United States.

Resolution Details

The Federal Highway Administration waived the 55% requirement temporarily in February, and the waiver will remain in effect until July of 2024. Even with the exemption, the chargers would have to be manufactured in the United States.

"We are now facing, under this waiver they're requesting, the real prospect that significant portions of the $5 billion that are going to go to electric vehicle charging stations are going to be spent on Chinese companies," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the leading lawmaker on the resolution, said during floor debate. "We're either serious about restoring America's industrial capabilities or we're not."

Using the Congressional Review Act, Rubio and other Republican senators overturned the FHWA waiver in July, making the EV charging projects subject to the bill's original provisions.

However, Democrats claim that enforcing the resolution will have the reverse effect, resulting in fewer chargers made in the United States.

Since highway infrastructure is exempted from domestic sourcing criteria under the FHWA's general waiver for manufactured products, they reasoned that EV chargers would fall under that policy if the rule were rescinded.

Previous Laws

With the exception of steel and iron, manufactured goods were no longer needed to be sourced and produced in the U.S. by the Reagan government in 1983.

Steel, iron, manufactured products, and construction materials in EV chargers were postponed until 2020 according to the FHWA rule that was finalized in March.

“Under the Rubio resolution, these requirements would go away. They vanish,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) during floor remarks.

“It makes me think, and the resolution itself suggests, that he’s more interested in scoring political points rather than doing the hard work of increasing the number of products and the number of programs that are subject to Buy America requirements.” "Under the Rubio resolution, these requirements would go away. They vanish,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) during floor remarks.

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