Allegretti: Bringing the Jones Act into legislative debates
is a “vote subtractor”
NEW YORK (September 16, 2015) – Tom Allegretti, American Maritime Partnership Chairman, addressed the attendees of the 2015 Tradewinds Jones Act Shipping Forum in New York about the overwhelming support for the Jones Act in Congress. In his remarks, Mr. Allegretti remarked that the strong support for the Jones Act trade is due to the industry’s longstanding positive impact on national, economic and homeland security, affirmatively noting that any attempt to include an amendment of the Jones Act in pending legislation is a “vote subtractor” that can hurt Congressional progress.
The Jones Act has been erroneously criticized this past month by familiar opponents of the law who are actively working to tie the debt crisis in Puerto Rico to the maritime industry. In his remarks, Mr. Allegretti outlined why any connection between the Jones Act and a debt relief package in Congress would actually hurt, not help the movement of the package forward.
“Some in Puerto Rico have suggested that a Jones Act exemption be included in the legislative package under the erroneous theory that the Jones Act is bad for Puerto Rico. But here’s the kicker: If Congress did that — include an anti-Jones Act amendment in the package — the chances of the overall package getting enacted into law would diminish. That’s because the presence of an anti-Jones Act amendment would reduce or subtract the number of Members of Congress who would vote for the overall bill. So Puerto Ricans would be undermining — and maybe even sabotaging — their own assistance package by including an anti-Jones Act amendment in it,” said Mr. Allegretti.
This Congressional math was evermore apparent earlier this year when Senator John McCain filed a Senate floor amendment to repeal the Jones Act, which was overwhelmingly disputed by Members in both Chambers of Congress. “Ultimately, several weeks later, facing almost certain defeat, [Sen. McCain] withdrew his amendment and did not offer it. We believe his amendment would have failed overwhelmingly. Even Sen. McCain jokingly admitted that his strategy for repealing the Jones Act was to ‘pray to the patron saint of lost causes.’ In other words, there is no appetite in Congress to change the Jones Act,” said Mr. Allegretti.
In fact, the support in Congress for the Jones Act couldn’t be any stronger. Last December, Congress enacted the strongest endorsement of the Jones Act in history in a resolutions included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014.
To read Mr. Allegretti’s full address to the 2015 Tradewinds Conference, please see below.
REMARKS BY TOM ALLEGRETTI
CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN MARITIME PARTNERSHIP
TradeWinds Jones Act Conference
September 16, 2015
Good morning. I’m here in my capacity as Chairman of the American Maritime Partnership. AMP is the national Jones Act coalition. Our organization includes essentially the entire American domestic maritime industry — shipyards, vessel operators, and maritime labor unions, plus many pro-national security organizations.
My day job is president & CEO of the American Waterways Operators, the association of the American tugboat and barge industry, an important subset of the domestic maritime industry.
The American domestic maritime industry is a big industry, especially in maritime terms:
- An annual economic impact approaching $100 billion.
- 500,000 good, family wage American jobs that cannot be outsourced.
- In certain U.S. states and congressional districts, the largest single employer is a maritime company.
On top of that, we offer transportation services at an extremely low cost and a small environmental footprint, so the benefits of Jones Act transportation extend to both the shippers who use our service and to our country.
Because of my AMP position, I am often asked the question, “How secure is the Jones Act?” The answer is that today the Jones Act is extremely safe and secure. One reason for that is the rock solid coalition in AMP — all of those organizations and companies that I mentioned work in unison to ensure the protection of the law. It is a formidable army.
Another reason that the Jones Act is secure today is that we take nothing for granted. We operate under a modified version of Thomas Jefferson’s adage to his new country that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. We know that the price of Jones Act integrity is eternal vigilance and strong defenses.
The other part of my analysis is that there is no meaningful evidence to suggest that the Jones Act is in any jeopardy. Here are a couple of data points that lead to this conclusion:
Data Point #1 — Earlier this year, Sen John McCain, a very powerful legislator, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and a long-time opponent of the Jones Act, filed a Senate floor amendment to gut the Jones Act. Ultimately, several weeks later, facing almost certain defeat, he withdrew his amendment and did not offer it. We believe his amendment would have failed overwhelmingly. [McCain Slide] Even Sen. McCain jokingly admitted that his strategy for repealing the Jones Act was to “pray to the patron saint of lost causes.” (That’s St. Jude for you non-Catholics.) In other words, there is no appetite in Congress to change the Jones Act.
Data Point #2 — Last December, Congress enacted into law the strongest endorsement of the Jones Act ever. [NDAA Slide] The resolution started in the House Armed Services Committee and was included in the National Defense Authorization Act. It was as strong a statement as you could ask for in support of the national and economic security of the Jones Act. Congress is strongly in support of this law.
And, this same kind of strong support also resides within the highest levels of America’s national security leadership. [Selva Slide] Gen. Paul Selva, then the Commander of the U.S. Transportation Command, and now the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had this to say about the Jones Act in January. He is eloquent about the connection between the continued integrity of the Jones Act and the maintenance of American sovereignty.
Data Point #3 — We are building vessels in this country at a level we have not seen in a generation. It is a very exciting time. [TOTE Slide] The new builds are modern, state-of-the-art, vessels that set the standard for the world. I had the opportunity recently to see one of these remarkable vessels christened and launched down the ways in San Diego with the new TOTE ship that will serve Puerto Rico. You can’t see that kind of ship and not be impressed by what she represents — our industry continuing to grow to serve the market needs of our customers and becoming even more important to our national economy.
There are other data points that I could share with you that all point to the same conclusion — the Jones Act isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Simply put – I do not believe that Congress is going to pass a law that outsources thousands of U.S. jobs and undermines national, economic and homeland security. That’s what repealing the Jones Act would do.
Let me close with a final reason the Jones Act isn’t going anywhere, and this reason has to do with Congressional math. Let me explain with an example.
As you know, Puerto Rico is experiencing a severe debt crisis and Congress may be considering a legislative assistance package to help Puerto Rico. Some in Puerto Rico have suggested that a Jones Act exemption be included in the legislative package under the erroneous theory that the Jones Act is bad for Puerto Rico.
But here’s the kicker: If Congress did that — include an anti-Jones Act amendment in the package — the chances of the overall package getting enacted into law would diminish. That’s because the presence of an anti-Jones Act amendment would reduce or subtract the number of Members of Congress who would vote for the overall bill. So Puerto Ricans would be undermining — and maybe even sabotaging — their own assistance package by including an anti-Jones Act amendment in it.
We’ve seen this same scenario — the Jones Act as a vote subtractor– in analogous recent cases related to the Keystone pipe and crude oil exports. Adding an anti-Jones Act provision to legislation is essentially a poison pill, or, to use a maritime analogy, a huge heavy anchor that puts a real drag on legislative progress.
That’s just one more reason the Jones Act isn’t going anywhere.
Thanks very much for the opportunity to join you here today. I will be happy to take your questions.
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