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Congress ignores Biden veto threat to repeal waiver requiring EV chargers to be made in America

Transportation Department waiver pushed back the "Buy American" requirements of Biden's EV charging station buildout to July 2024. The Democratic-controlled Senate Wednesday voted 50-48 to repeal the waiver.

Published: November 9, 2023 12:46pm

Updated: November 9, 2023 1:11pm

The Senate has voted in favor of reinstating a requirement in the roughly $65 billion, bipartisan infrastructure bill of 2021 that requires funded projects – including those for electric vehicle chargers – to use U.S. goods. 

The Democrat-controlled chamber did so Wednesday amid a veto threat by Democrat President Joe Biden.

Under the law, construction materials such as steel and iron, must be used in federal infrastructure projects, including EV charging stations. And the projects must be 55% domestically produced.  In addition, manufacturing has to be done entirely in the U.S., according to Reuters.

U.S. states and companies after the bill was signed into law that the global demand for EV chargers strained the supply chain, which made it nearly impossible to meet the “Buy American” standards, according to Reuters.

To give EV manufacturers time to comply with the rules and expedite construction of new chargers, the Transportation Department's Federal Highway Administration, in its final rule unveiled in February, pushed back some of the more stringent domestic-sourcing requirements to July 2024.

The infrastructure law includes $7.5 billion for a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers along U.S. highways.

In July of this year, Sen. Mark Rubio, R-Fla., vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, introduced a bill to overturn the rule, arguing that federal tax dollars shouldn’t subsidize Chinese-made products.

Republicans Roger Marshall of Kansas, Rick Scott of Florida, and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota co-sponsored the legislation.

The Senate voted 50-48 to pass the measure. Democrat Sens. Sherrod Brown, of Ohio; Joe Manchin, of West Virginia; and Jon Tester, of Montana, sided with essentiually all Republicans on the passage of the measure The Democrats were also joined by Independent Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

The White House says Biden doesn't want the Buy America clause reinstated right now because it  would "undermine the hundreds of millions of dollars that the private sector has already invested in domestic EV charging manufacturing, and chill further domestic investment in this critical market.”

The bill now heads to the House, where the Republican majority is expected to pass it.