A bipartisan and bicameral group of lawmakers is proposing a bill that would incentivize and boost American manufacturing, in addition to research and development, as the Trump administration looks to keep a promise from the presidential campaign.
Reps. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., and Ron Kind, D-Wis., with Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Pat Roberts, R-Kan., have introduced the Invent and Manufacture in America Act, a bill that would give a tax credit to companies that not only conduct research and development, but also manufacture products resulting from that R&D as well.
Kelly argues that incentivizing work is one of the main drivers of entrepreneurial success and would be a boon to a U.S. manufacturing sector that has struggled to keep up in recent years. Since 2001, the U.S. has lost more than five million manufacturing jobs while only 1 in 10 Americans work in manufacturing, down from 1 in 4 during the 1960s, when U.S. manufacturing hit its peak.
"I'm from the private sector," Kelly said. "What we've found that works best: If you want to do something, you usually incentivize any good behavior. So, we're looking at the loss of jobs we've had — manufacturing jobs, the number of manufacturing plants have closed, and when you ask them why is it that you've closed ... why did you choose to actually assemble it someplace else, it's usually because of a more favorable tax situation.
"Most of the stuff since I've been in office I've looked at when we've talked to people as to why they're leaving, it's because they feel that the policies that have come forward make it harder for them to be profitable and harder to exist," he said.
Kelly said that Erie, which he represents as part of the Pennsylvania's 3rd Congressional District, has lost roughly 1/3 of its manufacturing jobs in recent years, most of which have left the country altogether.
The issue of keeping jobs in America has been a linchpin of President Trump's campaign and presidency, as he has called for companies to "Buy American" and "Hire American." However, outside of Trump's executive order focusing on apprenticeships and tightening rules on the H-1B visa program, not many changes have been made to spur job growth. Despite the inaction on Capitol Hill, Kelly hopes his initiative can gain momentum.
"I think it's going to build as more people see it," Kelly said. "Between Ron Kind and myself — we both sit on Ways and Means [Committee]. We both come from very similar districts. ... Our main objective for both of us is to get our constituents back to work. I really don't know how they're registered, or how they vote, but know they're very disappointed in the fact that they've been left out in this recovery."
The Erie Republican says he expects the legislation to move quickly through the House and, ultimately, through the Senate. At the latest, he expects the bill to pass the House by the end of September and plans to speak more with the administration in the coming weeks.
The bill is receiving outside support from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Keith Roe, the group's president, says the bill will make the U.S. more "competitive globally" and benefit workers overall.
"The Invent and Manufacture in America Act amplifies the success of the R&D tax credit by expanding its benefits to more fully serve the American worker," Roe said. "When American innovations are manufactured abroad, we surrender our competitive advantage. This bill will strengthen innovation at home and make the United States more competitive globally by encouraging more domestic R&D and manufacturing.
"When goods and technologies are manufactured where they are invented, it promotes further advances and allows the entire innovation pipeline to reinvigorate itself more quickly," he added.