Crossing the aisle

Union County Pulse

Representative Howard Coble and I may be on opposite sides of the aisle, but we share a common goal—to see more and more things made in America, again. Howard and I serve as Co-Chairs of the Congressional Textile Caucus and we have worked together to make Washington focus on the most obvious solution to our troubled economy—the revitalization of American manufacturing.

Howard and I wanted to make a statement about the importance of bipartisanship this week, and that’s why we pledged to sit together at the State of the Union speech. Our districts are connected and share a common history. They were both once heavily based in manufacturing, from textiles to furniture and many products that helped make our state and nation great. It has been obvious to us for many years that the best way to revitalize our country is through revitalizing manufacturing and Buy American. Tuesday, the President announced a plan to support American manufacturing. As anyone who follows my career knows, I’ve been a broken record about this issue. My friend Howard Coble has been fighting this fight for many years as well. The simple truth is, if we truly want to correct and advance our economy, we must do so with an honest and wholehearted effort to Buy American and protect our borders.

By 9 a.m. the day after the State of the Union speech, I had completed a call with the White House, telling the President’s staff that if they are serious about making his statements on Made in America and customs enforcement a reality, that both bills were already written and were ready to go. Last year, I introduced H.R. 679, the Berry Amendment Extension Act, to expand Buy American provisions to all of the Department of Homeland Security. I also introduced H.R. 2754, the Textile Enforcement and Security Act, the first ever textile-specific customs enforcement legislation designed to crack down on illegal imports and counterfeiting from nations such as China and Pakistan. Both measures passed the House unanimously in the last Congress, and both are ready to finally become law.

The Berry Amendment Extension Act would ensure that we protect the men and women who protect our nation. As shocking as it may seem, many U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents are outfitted in uniforms with the words “Made in Mexico” on the tag. This is outrageous. Just as we protect and equip the men and women of our armed forces with American uniforms under the Berry Amendment, so too must we outfit and equip the brave men and women who protect our borders. In addition to that, the Textile Enforcement and Security Act would crack down on the illegal counterfeiting and fraud that has ravaged our textile economy and led to a loss of jobs in our region over the past decade. It is notable that we have also lost hundreds of millions of dollars from tariffs and fees that smugglers and counterfeiters have gotten away with not paying to our government, which would reduce our debt. We must be serious about strengthening and enforcing the laws we have on the books to prevent illegal activities, including the rise in shadow companies offshoring facilities to exploit tax breaks. We must also give agencies the tools and authorities they need to protect and enforce these measures. This is the type of legislation that will have a real effect and create jobs in America, in North Carolina and in the Eighth District.

These important pieces of legislation are simple and have broad bipartisan support. Members of Congress from all parts of our country and both parties support them. Most importantly, both of these bills could be passed today, signed into law by the President, and begin helping American businesses and American workers immediately. I urge the White House to put specific action behind the President’s words. Hopefully they will listen to what I have been saying for years now—we need trade policies that work for America, not just the rest of the world. It is my hope that our nation embraces a new approach to getting our economy back on track, not more of the same misguided and unfair trade deals that will continue to hurt our American economy.

The simplest jobs plan I can think of is to hire people in America to make things in America so they can afford to buy things that are made in America. Until we do that, all other talk of rebuilding a robust national economy is a waste of words. We should repeal NAFTA and CAFTA and create and enforce trade laws that actually promote domestic industries and encourage growth in businesses, not set our businesses and workers at the mercy of communist nations such as China. If we secure our borders from illegal goods and illegal workers and close the gaps that let cheap, counterfeit products into our great nation and devalue American workers and workmanship, we can help make Made in America the most popular brand in the nation once again.

The time has come to actually take the common sense steps required to put America back to work. There are people in Washington working on both sides of the aisle to make this happen—it’s now time for them to start working together to make it happen. Remember, no matter what your political views are, we can all agree—there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right with America.

Rep. Larry Kissell

8th District Congressman

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  1. Protective legislation would likely help domestic “product” industries do better, but something that I believe would do far more good is for us as a nation to take a good look at the restrictions on the market from D.C. to town hall. Labor, licensing, insurance, compliance, certifications, zoning, incentives which target politically advantageous industry, taxation…. all of these result in a higher cost of production. Also, the dollar is the unit by which our labor is exchanged for goods and services. If our dollar loses value, so does our labor and investment potential. If we are encouraged through legislation to buy American, with pricing that reflects the inflated cost of production, using a dollar that has devalued our labors, we may possibly see a limited effect. Fix the dollar, stop the debt, drastically reduce government interference in commerce and the economy. Free up the most powerful economic engine the world has ever seen, American ingenuity combined with a free market.

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