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Merkley, colleagues make manufacturing jobs push

Published On: Dec 24 2013 12:49:51 PM CST   Updated On: Oct 30 2013 12:55:21 AM CDT
Sen. Jeff Merkley

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.


Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., joined 21 of his colleagues Tuesday  to launch a campaign to get Washington to refocus on manufacturing jobs.

The Manufacturing Jobs for America initiative aims to build bipartisan support for legislation that will modernize America’s manufacturing sector, help American manufacturers grow and create jobs, and assist American workers in getting the skills to succeed in the next generation of manufacturing jobs.

Together, the lawmakers have contributed 40 bills — many with bipartisan support — to the effort around four organizing principles: 

  • Strengthening America’s 21st century workforce
  • Opening markets abroad
  • Creating the conditions necessary for growth
  • Expanding access to capital

“A living wage job is the best possible foundation for a family,” Merkley said. “The tax and trade policies of the last few decades have shipped millions of jobs overseas and have been terrible for Oregon’s working families. Washington can and should do a lot to expand manufacturing, because if we don’t build things in America, we won’t have a middle class in America.”


The initiative’s focus on manufacturing reflects the sector’s reputation for providing high-quality jobs that lead to gains throughout the economy.

Workers in manufacturing jobs earn 22 percent more in annual pay and benefits than the average worker in other industries, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

Every new manufacturing job created adds another 1.6 jobs to the local service economy, and for every dollar in manufacturing sales, another $1.34 is added to the economy. Investments in manufacturing have a stronger impact than investments in any other economic sector.

The package of bills includes two bills written by Merkley: the BUILD Career and Technical Education Act, which would support career and technical education in middle schools and high schools; and the Job Creation through Energy Efficient Manufacturing Act, which would provide competitive grants to states to fund new or expanded industrial energy efficiency financing programs.

“The Manufacturing Jobs for America initiative that supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies in energy, tax, regulatory and workforce policy and other areas has the potential to provide a critical path towards bipartisan agreement on issues facing manufacturers and their employees,” National Association of Manufacturers President Jay Timmons said.

“The manufacturing sector is still struggling to recover from the 2.3 million jobs lost during the difficult recession of 2008 and 2009. While 500,000 jobs have since been created, we still have a long road to travel. A growth agenda, that includes some of the bills that are part of the Manufacturing Jobs for America effort, is key to creating an environment that encourages job creation.” 

“The AFL-CIO applauds the Senate Democrats for pulling together this broad legislative package to support domestic manufacturing,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said. “This is an example of the results-oriented approach Congress should be taking to invest in growth and create jobs, rather than engaging in divisive ideological campaigns.

"We strongly support many of the themes that run through these bills, including action on currency manipulation and evasion of import duties, measures to increase the reshoring of production, more resources for skills and training, improved access to capital, help for start-ups, and domestic content requirements for government purchases. We look forward to working with the Senate to enact much of this legislation. The manufacturing sector in the United States has finally begun to heal, but we must create the conditions for a long-term recovery. A comprehensive approach like this one can move us a long way in that direction.”

In addition to Merkley, senators contributing policy to the Manufacturing Jobs for America campaign include Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.). 

In addition to the National Association of Manufacturers and AFL-CIO, Manufacturing Jobs for America has earned the support of the Alliance for American Manufacturing; American Automotive Policy Council; American Small Manufacturers Coalition; Association for Manufacturing Technology; Bloom Energy; BlueGreen Alliance; Dow; DuPont; Ford Motor Company; General Electric; the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation; National Association of Development Organizations; National Skills Coalition; One Voice - National Tool & Machining Association, and Precision Metalforming Association; Progressive Policy Institute; STEM Education Coalition; Third Way; the United Autoworkers; and the United Steelworkers.

For a full list of the legislation included in Manufacturing Jobs for America, go to

Meanwhile, on Tuesday's one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Merkley and a bipartisan coalition of Senators introduced the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act which he said will protect thousands of Oregon homeowners from facing huge flood insurance premium rate hikes and require FEMA to complete an affordability study and propose real solutions to address affordability issues before any flood insurance premiums can be raised in the future.

“Something is very wrong when middle class families across Oregon and America are more worried about extreme spikes in flood insurance than about actual floods. This must be remedied,” said Merkley. “We can strengthen the long-term health of the program without pricing families out of their homes.  I am pleased that last month’s hearing helped mobilize a bipartisan coalition committed to giving homeowners relief.”

In September, Merkley chaired a hearing in his Economic Policy subcommittee on flood insurance rate spikes and possible solutions.  He then assembled a bipartisan working group of senators concerned about the problems, which led to the new legislation.

The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act will:


Delays the implementation of rate increases on the following three types of properties until FEMA meets two requirements:  1) completes the affordability study mandated by Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, proposes a draft affordability framework for Congressional review, and Congress has a chance to give FEMA affordability authority; and  2) the FEMA Administrator certifies that the agency has implemented a flood mapping approach that utilizes sound scientific and engineering methodologies to determine varying levels of flood risk in all areas participating in the National Flood Insurance Program:

  1. All homes and businesses that are currently “grandfathered.”  These are properties that were built to code and later remapped into a higher risk area.  Prior to Biggert-Waters, these policyholders were not penalized for relying on inaccurate FEMA flood maps.
  2. All properties that purchased a new policy after July 6, 2012, before they were legally required to purchase insurance.
  3. All properties sold after July 6, 2012.  New homeowners and business owners will continue to receive the same treatment as the previous owner unless they trigger another provision in Biggert-Waters such as Severe Repetitive Loss, non-primary residence, substantial damage, etc.

The measure requires FEMA to propose a draft regulatory framework to address any affordability issues identified by the study within 18 months after the completion of the study and establishes a six month period thereafter to provide for Congressional review.  The House and Senate would then hold up or down votes through a privileged motion on giving FEMA the authority to promulgate affordability regulations.  If Congress approves this authority, the targeted freeze set forth by this bill would continue until regulations are finalized.  If not, the freezes would be lifted absent other Congressional action.


Section 100236 of Biggert-Waters required FEMA to produce a study that considered the effects the Bill will have on affordability.  Strikes the arbitrary dollar amount on the affordability study to ensure FEMA has the funding required to complete it within two years of the date of enactment.


Allows FEMA to utilize the National Flood Insurance Fund (NFIF)  to reimburse policyholders who successfully appeal a map determination.  FEMA currently has the authority to reimburse homeowners for successful appeals of map findings, but Congress has never appropriated funding for this purpose.  Making appeal reimbursement an eligible expense of the NFIF would give FEMA the incentive to “get it right the first time” and repay homeowners for contributing to the flood risk body of knowledge.  Unsuccessful appeals would not be reimbursed in any way.


FEMA’s AR and A99 flood zone categories provide more affordable flood insurance to qualifying communities that are in the process of levee construction, reconstruction, and improvements.  Current regulations require a certain level of federal participation to qualify for either an A99 or an AR designation, and therefore prevent FEMA from giving communities fair credit for improvements made to existing flood control systems.  Proactive communities that invest in mitigation should not be penalized for self-financing flood protection projects. 


Preserves the pre-Biggert-Waters basement exception allowing the lowest flood-proofed opening in a home to be used for determining flood insurance rates.  This affects 54 communities nation-wide where basements are necessary to protect homeowners and businesses from extreme weather.  Basements that have not been flood-proofed would remain subject to the effects of Biggert-Waters


Establishes a Flood Insurance Rate Map Advocate within FEMA to answer current and prospective policyholder questions about the flood mapping process.  The Rate Map Advocate will be responsible for educating policyholders about their individual flood risks, their options in choosing a policy, assisting property owners through the map appeals process, and improve outreach and coordination with local officials, community leaders, and Congress.

Homeowners with mortgages living in flood zones are required to have flood insurance, which for about 20 percent of properties has traditionally been subsidized or grandfathered at a lower rate by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Before Superstorm Sandy struck, a federal flood insurance reform bill, the Biggert-Waters Act, was passed as part of a larger legislative package. The Biggert-Waters Act was aimed at reducing, or phasing out, the federal NFIP subsidy at up to 25 percent a year, which would dramatically increase premiums for homeowners and businesses.

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), David Vitter (R-LA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Bill Nelson (R-FL), Mark Begich (D-AK), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Hoeven (R-ND), Al Franken (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Ed Markey (D-MA). 

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, along with Congressmen Michael Grimm, Cedric Richmond and 34 others are introducing a companion bill in the House of Representatives.


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