Economy Manufacturing

In this Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, photo, recycled plastic that has been cleaned and turned into chips is shown at the Repreve Bottle Processing Center, part of the Unifi textile company in Reidsville, N.C. American factories expanded in February 2017 at the fastest pace in more than two years, according to information released Wednesday, March 1, 2017, by the Institute for Supply Management. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

WASHINGTON — Seeking to galvanize the economy and help factories, President Joe Biden signed an executive order Monday to boost government buying from US manufacturers as he begins the negotiation process with Congress over a $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

The executive order is among a flurry of moves by Biden during his first full week to publicly show he’s taking swift action to heal an ailing economy. Biden’s aides have hammered the talking points that the country is in a precarious spot and relief is urgently needed.

But Monday’s order will likely take 45 days or longer to make its way through the federal bureaucracy, during which time wrangling with Congress could produce a new aid package. That would be a follow-up to the roughly $4 trillion previously approved to tackle the economic and medical fallout from the Coronavirus.

Biden’s team held a call Sunday to outline the stimulus plan with at least a dozen senators, while the president has also privately talked with lawmakers.

An administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, said Sunday’s call was constructive and gave Biden’s team a chance to explain details of the proposal to lawmakers. Among the features of the stimulus plan are a national vaccination program, aid to reopen schools, direct payments of $1,400 to individuals and financial relief for state and local governments.

“There’s an urgency to moving it forward, and he certainly believes there has to be progress in the next couple of weeks,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. She warned that action needed to be taken before the US reaches an “unemployment cliff” in March, when long-term unemployment benefits expire for millions of Americans.

But Republicans on Capitol Hill were not joining in the push for immediate action.

One key Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, said after Sunday’s call that “it seems premature to be considering a package of this size and scope.” Collins described the additional funding for vaccinations as useful while cautioning that any economic aid should be more targeted.

Psaki said Monday that the process was designed to get feedback from lawmakers, emphasizing that the goal is bipartisan agreement and that there needs to be progress in the next several weeks.

“In our view, this is working exactly as it should work,” Psaki said. “We don’t expect the final bill to look exactly the same as the first bill he proposed.”

But Biden is trying to shape the economy without having to wait on Congress. His Monday order was aimed at increasing factory jobs, which have slumped by 540,000 since the pandemic began last year.

Biden’s order would modify the rules for the Buy American program, making it harder for contractors to qualify for a waiver and sell foreign-made goods to federal agencies. It also changes rules so that more of a manufactured good’s components must originate from US factories. America-made goods would also be protected by an increase in the government’s threshold and price preferences, the difference in price over which the government can buy a foreign product.

It’s an order that channels Biden’s own blue-collar persona and his promise to use the government’s market power to support its industrial base, an initiative that former President Donald Trump also attempted with executive actions and import taxes.

While Trump also issued a series of executive actions and tariffs with the goal of boosting manufacturing, he didn’t attempt to rewrite the guidance for what constitutes a US-made component or tighten the process for granting exemptions to buy foreign goods, a key difference from Biden’s agenda, Biden’s administration said.

(1) comment

Jimzan

Biden seems to be putting America "LAST" I bet China loves his actions. If I wanted to destroy America, I would take the same actions that Biden is taking.

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