Congress tees up veto as Democrats join GOP to scuttle EV charging plan

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【Summary】The Senate has voted to repeal a Biden administration rule requiring electric vehicle chargers to be made from domestic materials. Critics argue that this rule makes the US more dependent on China for supplies like steel and iron. Four Senate Democrats sided with Republicans in passing the legislation. The measure will now go to the House, where it is expected to pass. President Biden has vowed to veto the legislation.

FutureCar Staff    Nov 08, 2023 10:15 PM PT
Congress tees up veto as Democrats join GOP to scuttle EV charging plan

A rule implemented by the Biden administration regarding the production of electric vehicle (EV) chargers made from domestic materials is now at risk after the Senate voted to repeal it. The 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocated $7.5 billion for EV chargers, which is a crucial part of President Biden's climate change agenda to transition from gas-powered cars to electric ones.

However, critics argue that the administration's decision to temporarily waive the "Buy America" rules, which require government-funded chargers to be constructed using domestic materials, has made the United States more reliant on China for supplies like steel and iron. In response, the Democratic-controlled Senate voted 50-48 to pass the GOP-led legislation to overturn the administration's action, with a simple majority being sufficient.

Among the Senate Democrats who sided with the Republicans were Jon Tester of Montana, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who is an independent but caucuses with the Democrats. All of these Democratic defectors are facing re-election next year. This vote is another example of vulnerable Senate Democrats aligning with Republicans to roll back President Biden's regulatory agenda using privileged resolutions under the Congressional Review Act, a tactic that GOP senators have employed to force floor votes.

The legislation will now proceed to the House, where it is expected to be passed by the Republican majority. President Biden has promised to veto the bill, which would be his ninth veto since taking office. However, Congress has previously been unable to gather the two-thirds majority needed to override any of his previous vetoes.

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, the author of the measure, stated earlier this year that it "hurts American companies and empowers foreign adversaries, like China, to control our energy infrastructure." He believes that American dollars should not be used to subsidize Chinese-made products.

On the other hand, proponents of the waiver argue that removing the exemption from the Federal Highway Administration to suspend domestic sourcing requirements would actually increase U.S. dependence on China. This is because it would also repeal long-term domestic sourcing requirements that will come into effect next year. Currently, chargers must be made from at least 55% domestic materials and be 100% manufactured in the U.S. to qualify for government funding. However, this stipulation will not be enforced until July 2024 to provide manufacturers with a transition period.

The funding for EV chargers is part of President Biden's goal to have 500,000 new chargers installed by 2030, as the U.S. currently lags behind industry demands in this area. In a statement prior to the vote, the White House emphasized that their actions aim to "ensure that federal dollars for EV chargers are used to purchase American-made products, while allowing newly announced manufacturing capacity for EV charger components the necessary time to ramp up production."

Contact Ramsey Touchberry at [email protected].

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