This was a vote on an amendment by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) that would have required federally funded freight rail construction projects to hire U.S. companies and workers, rather than foreign companies. This amendment was offered to legislation that would provide annual funding in fiscal year 2012 for Agriculture, Transportation, and Commerce department programs.
Merkley urged support for his amendment: “…When our American government spends money on infrastructure, core infrastructure, we should look first to American companies and American workers. But this doesn't always happen. In fact, recently, there was a bid proposal in Alaska to build a bridge with America's taxpayer money and a Chinese company employing Chinese steel outbid the American company using American steel. This was a big surprise in that normally there is a framework that helps ensure American companies and American workers are able to do the infrastructure projects we are funding with our taxpayer dollars so we are creating jobs here at home. It turns out there is a loophole; whereas, this basic framework covers highways, it covers commuting rail, it covers passenger rail but doesn't apply to freight rail. This was a freight bridge on tracks that do not also have passenger trains on them. I don't know how many tracks in America only have freight and not passenger, but when everything got sorted out through the appeal process, that is what it came down to….At a time when Americans everywhere are searching for jobs, we should be supporting American companies that employ and hire Americans, use American steel when American taxpayer dollars are employed.”
No senators spoke in opposition to this amendment.
The vote on this amendment was 55-44. Voting “yea” were 50 Democrats and 5 Republicans. 42 Republicans and 2 Democrats voted “nay.” While a majority of senators voted ”yea,” the Senate had agreed by unanimous consent to set a 60-vote threshold for passage of the amendment. Since this amendment did not receive a 60-vote majority, the measure was rejected. As a result, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have required federally funded freight rail projects to hire U.S. Companies and workers, rather than foreign companies.