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Biden vetoes GOP measure that aimed to block White House policy on foreign content in EV chargers

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday vetoed a Republican measure that would have blocked a White House waiver that allows some foreign-made content in federally funded chargers for electric vehicles.

The White House said the GOP plan would actually block made-in-America requirements, since it would revert U.S. policy to a 1980s rule that allows foreign content in U.S. manufacturing.

The GOP bill "would eliminate the domestic manufacturing requirement for electric vehicle chargers, thereby harming domestic manufacturing and American jobs,'' Biden said in a veto statement.

If enacted, the GOP resolution would revert U.S. policy to a 1983 rule that waives domestic requirements for many manufactured products. The Reagan-era waiver allows federal money to be spent on a range of products made outside the U.S., including in "competitor nations like the People’s Republic of China,'' the White House said.

The GOP resolution also would "undermine the hundreds of millions of dollars that the private sector has already invested in domestic EV charging manufacturing, and chill further domestic investment in this critical market,'' the White House said.

Supporters said the congressional measure would keep China out of the supply chain for EV chargers, a politically potent idea that appeals to lawmakers in both parties.

“If we’re going to spend $5 billion of taxpayer money to build electric vehicle charging stations for the United States, it should be made by Americans in America using American products,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who introduced the resolution last year.

The Senate approved the measure, 50-48, i n November, despite a White House veto threat. Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, along with independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, joined Republicans to approve the measure.

The House approved the measure two weeks ago, sending it to Biden.

Debate over the measure highlights a challenge Biden faces between more clean energy and increased reliance on China, which dominates the EV battery market.

Widespread availability of chargers is crucial to meet a Biden administration goal ensuring that EVs make up half of all new car sales by 2030. Along with cost, “range anxiety” about a lack of available charging stations is a key impediment to buying an EV. About 80% of respondents cited concerns about a lack of charging stations as a reason not to purchase an electric vehicle, according to an April survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.

The White House said it is phasing in “Buy America” domestic content requirements for EV chargers over the next year to align with benchmarks set out by Congress as part of the 2021 infrastructure law. "These actions ensure that federal dollars for EV chargers are used to purchase American-made products, while allowing newly announced manufacturing capacity for EV charger components (in the United States) the necessary time to ramp up production,'' the White House said.

Rubio said Biden should sign his resolution into law.

“There is absolutely no sane reason to funnel taxpayer dollars to Chinese companies,'' Rubio said. "President Biden should act in the interest of the American people, follow the bipartisan wishes of Congress and stop favoring foreign industry.''