The latest attack on the Jones Act was thwarted late June 8 when the House Rules Committee determined an amendment to eliminate the Jones Act from trade with Puerto Rico was not germane for the current bill before the House to aid the financial situation for the U.S. commonwealth.
“We are very grateful to the members of the House Rules Committee for ruling that an amendment dealing with the Jones Act was not in order for the pending legislation dealing with the financial crisis in Puerto Rico,” stated MTD President Michael Sacco shortly after the decision was announced.
“As the facts have clearly shown, the Jones Act does not in any way have anything to do with the unfortunate financial situation before the citizens of Puerto Rico,” he added. “This amendment was simply the latest attempt by the enemies of U.S.-flag shipping to constrain decent American seafaring, shipbuilding and transportation jobs. We have weathered these fights for generations, and will remain vigilant for future attacks.”
U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL), a first-term member, introduced language June 7 proposed by the right-wing Heritage Foundation to amend the Puerto Rican measure by calling for the exclusion of the Jones Act (as well as the Passenger Vessel Services Act) for carrying cargo (and passengers) between the United States and Puerto Rico. (Earlier this year, a Heritage Foundation research fellow was quoted as calling the U.S. Merchant Marine “highway robbers.”)
The MTD joined with the American Maritime Partnership (which includes maritime unions, U.S.-flag shipping companies, domestic shipyards and others in support of the industry) to launch an immediate campaign to stop the anti-cabotage amendment. Support came from both sides of the aisle.
Immediately after Palmer testified before the committee, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) spoke as a witness refuting point-by-point the attacks made on the Jones Act by his fellow legislator. Graves claimed the argument that shipping rates would be lower using foreign-flag vessels was untrue because Jones Act rates for the island already are lower than those found on the non-U.S.-flag ships. He pointed out the last thing Puerto Ricans needed was to lose more jobs, which would be caused if the Jones Act were eliminated.
President Sacco thanked Graves for standing up for the Jones Act, as well as U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who declared his support in an opinion piece that appeared in The Hill just before the committee met.
Hunter, who serves as the chair of the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, wrote, “The American Maritime Industry contributes $100 billion dollars in economic benefits and half million jobs to the U.S. economy.
“And as strong as the economic arguments are, the national security arguments are just as compelling – if not more,” he went on. “The Jones Act helps ensure we will have the necessary industrial infrastructure, and skilled labor pool of welders, fitters and sailors needed to rapidly mobilize in times of war.
“We must never rely on another country for this type of labor or to support U.S. force projection.”
Hunter, an Iraqi War vet, lambasted the attempts of the anti-Jones Act forces for attempting “their worn-out efforts to weaken the Jones Act.”
Throughout the debate on the Hill, Jones Act supporters continually referred members of the Congress to two different recent Government Accountability Office studies that found it difficult to back statements that eliminating the cabotage law would provide any cost reductions.