Keystone Bill Passes Without Senator McCain’s Jones Act Amendment

Jones Act ships under construction at the Aker Philadelphia Shipyard. File Photo.
Jones Act ships under construction at the Aker Philadelphia Shipyard. File Photo.

The U.S. Senate passed a bill on Thursday for the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, but an amendment filed by Senator John McCain seeking to repeal the U.S. build requirement of the Jones Act was not attached.

“The decision not to offer or vote on the amendment to repeal the Jones Act on the Keystone XL Pipeline legislation, an amendment that relied on flawed data and factual omissions, showed that it would have been overwhelmingly defeated because of the law’s rock solid support in Congress,” said Tom Allegretti, Chairman of the American Maritime Partnership. “This was not surprising considering it was just one month ago that Congress enacted its strongest legislative endorsement of the Jones Act in memory.”

Senators voted 62-36 to pass the Keystone XL pipeline bill despite repeated veto threats from the White House.

After the bill passed an initial Senate hurdle earlier this month, Senator McCain filed an amendment to the bill that seeking to repeal parts of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, aka the Jones Act, requiring that all goods shipped between ports of the United States be carried by vessels built in the United States and owned and operated by Americans.

Not surprisingly, McCain’s amendment was met with heavy criticism from maritime and shipbuilding industry stakeholders and lawmakers, such as Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-2) and Congressman Steven Palazzo (MS-4) who, along with 30 other bipartisan House Members, sent a letter to Senate leadership urging opposition to the amendment, stating that its passing would “gut” the U.S shipbuilding industry.

Senator McCain argues that the Jones Act is an “antiquated law” that hinders free trade and raises prices for American consumers. In December, McCain vowed the eventual full repeal of the Jones Act despite tough opposition. “It’s one of these things you just propose amendments to bills and encourage hearings and sooner or later the dam breaks,” McCain said after a speech at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

“But I have to tell you … the power of this maritime lobby is as powerful as anybody or any organization I have run up against in my political career. All I can do is appeal to the patron saint of lost causes and keep pressing and pressing and sooner or later you have to succeed,” he said.

FULL COVERAGE: Senator McCain’s Jones Act Amendment