President Biden traveled to Lehigh Valley, Pa., to bolster support for his infrastructure package on the day of a critical breakthrough with Republicans on the Hill, who said they had resolved the biggest sticking points to a final agreement on a far-reaching infrastructure plan, and planned to vote to allow the package to advance.
After touring a plant that produces Mack trucks, Mr. Biden underscored the importance of American manufacturing and unveiled a new proposal to support domestic production by increasing the amount of U.S.-made products purchased by the federal government.
“In recent years, ‘Buy America’ has become a hollow promise,” Mr. Biden said. “My administration is going to make ‘Buy America’ a reality, and I’m putting the weight of the federal government behind that commitment.”
Standing in front of two Mack trucks and an oversized American flag, Mr. Biden said he was making the biggest enforcement changes in the “Buy America” law in 70 years, with the goal of funneling tens of billions of dollars into jobs in communities like Allentown.
The federal government procures about $600 billion of goods a year, including everything from helicopter blades to office furniture, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Mr. Biden announced on Wednesday that he was changing the “Buy American” rules related to purchases made with taxpayer dollars. The plan is to increase the percentage of component parts that need to be manufactured domestically from 55 percent to 60 percent, with a graduated increase to 75 percent.
“55 percent is not high enough,” Mr. Biden said, referring to the domestic content of products provided by contractors. “We got a new sheriff in town.”
He added: “if American companies know we’re going to be buying from them, they’re going to be more inclined to hire and make key investments in the future in their companies.”
Mr. Biden’s efforts to promote the economy and his infrastructure plan, however, came alongside concerning new data about the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant, and the possibility of variants to come. Anxiety about the pandemic has begun to rise again, and Mr. Biden was expected to announce on Thursday that civilian federal workers will be required to get vaccinated or get weekly tests.
Wearing a mask for part of his trip, Mr. Biden brushed aside reporters’ questions about the possibility of imposing vaccination requirements.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for universal masking in schools and told vaccinated Americans that they should begin wearing masks again in the many counties in the country where the virus is surging. At the same time, officials in Congress and the White House reinstituted indoor mask requirements for staff to counter the surge.
The return to masking in the West Wing came just over two months after Mr. Biden and senior officials shed their face masks, in the biggest sign of a triumphant return toward normalcy since he took office.
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