January 16, 2015

HIRONO SPEAKS OUT FOR AMERICAN JOBS & SHIPBUILDERS, FIGHTS AGAINST AMENDMENT THAT DISMANTLES JONES ACT

Amendment Would Gut The American Shipbuilding Industry, Cost American Jobs, Risk Our National Security; Jones Act Ensures Reliable Access To Energy & Everyday Goods For Hawaii

Washington, D.C. —Today Senator Mazie K. Hirono took to the Senate floor to speak in opposition to an amendment that would dismantle the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly known as the Jones Act.

The Jones Act requires maritime vessels engaged in shipping goods between U.S. ports to be built in the United States, at least 75 percent owned by United States citizens, and operated by United States citizens. As an island state, Hawaii depends on the reliability offered by American shippers and guaranteed by the Jones Act for fresh food, energy, and other everyday goods.

The Jones Act is also critical to national security because it provides reliable sealift in times of war. Furthermore, the Jones Act ensures our ongoing viability as an ocean power by protecting American shipbuilders and provides solid, well-paying jobs for nearly half a million Americans across the country. 

Watch Senator Hirono’s floor speech herehttp://youtu.be/vFckoSr-CSc

Read Senator Hirono’s floor speech, as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, I rise today to speak in opposition to an amendment offered by Senator McCain pertaining to the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, popularly referred to as the Jones Act.

I want to start by staying that the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee has a distinguished record of support for our men and women in the military and cares deeply about our national security.

I would like to take a few minutes this morning to remind my colleagues just why the Jones Act is an essential component of our national security policy and shipbuilding is a foundational component of American manufacturing.

The Jones Act requires that maritime vessels engaged in shipping goods between U.S. ports must meet three requirements: They must be built in the United States, at least 75 percent owned by United States citizens, and operated by United States citizens. The Jones Act helps to shore up our national security by providing reliable sealift in times of war. It ensures our ongoing viability as an ocean power by protecting American shipbuilders.

As a result, the Jones Act provides solid, well-paying jobs for nearly half a million Americans from Virginia to Hawaii.  

In short, the Jones Act promotes national security and American job creation. Therefore, I am unclear why some of my colleagues are opposed to this common-sense law.

I don’t simply say this as a member from an island state where we depend on the reliability offered by American shippers for fresh food, energy, and other everyday goods. But I say this as a Senator that cares deeply about supporting our strong and growing middle class and creating American jobs.

First, shipbuilding is a major job creating industry. According to the Maritime Administration, there were 107,000 people directly employed by roughly 300 shipyards across 26 states in in 2013. Additionally, shipyards indirectly employed nearly 400,000 people across the country.

Senator McCain’s amendment would specifically knock out the Jones Act provision that requires U.S. flagged ships be built in the United States jeopardizing good-paying, middle class jobs. To me, that’s reason enough to oppose this amendment.

Secondly, this is not the time to create the instability this amendment would directly cause. After struggling through tough times, America’s shipbuilding industry is coming back.  Both this Congress and the administration have long stressed need for creating and keeping manufacturing jobs here at home in the United States. According to the Navy League, there are 15 tanker ships being built here in the U.S. right now and slated to join our U.S. flag fleet.

The fact is these ships don’t create quick turnaround jobs – but are hundreds of thousands of well-paying, long-term manufacturing jobs.  

If these ships are not built here in U.S. shipyards by U.S. workers, where will they be built? Where will those jobs go? China? Other Asian counties? Europe?

The shipbuilding industry is rebounding. Repealing the Jones Act is a step in the wrong direction. Instead of dismantling a policy that supports American jobs, Congress should be focused on doing more to promote and grow American manufacturing.

While the shipbuilding industry is rebounding, Congress should be focusing on promoting and growing American manufacturing.

Repealing the Jones Act’s requirement to build ships here in the United States will unquestionably cost U.S. jobs and weaken our position as a manufacturing leader. These are two strikes against this amendment.

The third and final strike is the fact that the amendment would undermine our national and homeland security.  

The Jones Act’s requirements—along with the American shipbuilding and maritime industries they underpin— provide American built ships and crews for use by the Department of Defense in times of need. It is easy to see why the Navy and Coast Guard strongly oppose repeal of the Jones Act. The Defense Department has concluded:

“We believe that the ability of the nation to build and maintain a U.S.-flag fleet is in the national interest, and we also believe it is in the interest of the DOD for U.S. shipbuilders to maintain a construction capability for commercial vessels.”

Therefore, this amendment has three strikes against it.

If adopted, this amendment would dismantle the Jones Act, costing American jobs, hurting American manufacturing, and undermining our national security.  I ask my colleagues to stand with me and nearly half a million middle class Americans and vote against this amendment if is brought up for a vote.

I yield the floor.