From Capitol Hill to the maritime media to labor, opposition to the McCain amendment that would eliminate part of the Jones Act if it is included in the Keystone XL Pipeline legislation being debated in the Senate continues to mount.
Last week, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) offered an amendment to the Keystone bill that would do away with the domestic build portion of the Jones Act, the nation’s freight cabotage law. The MTD – working with its affiliates, Port Maritime Councils and allies across the country – is urging legislators to defeat the amendment. The Jones Act has received strong bipartisan support in Washington for decades.
U.S. Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA) wrote in The Hill that the amendment “would undermine our domestic maritime industry and threaten the more than 400,000 jobs it supports nationwide. After years of stagnation, the American maritime industry is investing a record amount in new ship construction with American shipyards building many modern state-of-the-art vessels.”
The congresswoman further noted, “The Jones Act is an essential pillar of national and homeland security. A strong domestic shipyard base helps support strategic sealift requirement and Navy shipbuilding while ensuring that U.S. ports are free from foreign influence.”
From the pages of Maritime Executive, Publisher and Editor-in Chief Tony Munoz stated in an editorial, “McCain’s laissez-faire sentiments would actually destroy U.S. jobs, lower personal income, devastate U.S. vessel-operating companies and obliterate American shipbuilders, never mind the national security impacts.
“Meanwhile, statistics show that there is a steady loss of blue-collar jobs such as those found in shipyards, contributing to growing income inequality in the U.S. Despite the fact that 63 percent of the jobs lost during the Great Recession have been replaced, middle class incomes have actually declined by 11.6 percent,” added Munoz in his January 18 editorial.
President Thomas Buffenbarger of the MTD-affiliated International Association of Machinists told Senators that “the Jones Act has the strong support of the U.S. Navy and the Department of Defense. Passage of Senator McCain’s amendment would result in the outsourcing of U.S. shipbuilding to foreign nations, which will not only severely damage our defense capabilities, but will also devastate U.S. commercial shipbuilding and lead to a loss of good-paying American jobs.”
Ed Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, challenged the McCain amendment assumption that it would benefit the economy: “This could not be further from the truth. By removing the build provision of the Jones Act, the amendment would eliminate 400,000 U.S. jobs, reduce the GDP by $36 billion, and erase $24 billion in American workers wages and benefits. In fact, the only parties that stand to benefit from this amendment are heavily subsidized foreign shipping competitors who are not subject to U.S. laws, regulations, environmental standards and taxes.”
The Senate debate on the Keystone XL Pipeline bill is expected to continue through mid-January. Amendments will be handled before the final legislation is considered.