WASHINGTON – Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) have introduced the Open America’s Water Act, a bill that would repeal the Jones Act and allow all qualified vessels to engage in domestic trade between U.S. ports.
“Restricting trade between U.S. ports is a huge loss for American consumers and producers,” said Sen. Lee. “It is long past time to repeal the Jones Act entirely so that Alaskans, Hawaiians, and Puerto Ricans aren’t forced to pay higher prices for imported goods—and so they rapidly receive the help they need in the wake of natural disasters.”
“The Jones Act is a protectionist law that drives up the cost of commerce, and those costs ultimately fall on the consumer,” said Rep. McClintock. “ Just this week, the Jones Act had to be waived to ensure the East Coast had an adequate fuel supply, much like it is often waived to respond to natural disasters in U.S. territories. The solution is not selective waivers in times of distress – it’s repealing this disastrous law altogether.”
In 1920, Congress passed the Jones Act, which requires all goods transported by water between U.S. ports to be carried on vessels constructed, registered, owned, and crewed primarily by U.S. citizens. This imposes significant costs on American consumers and businesses, especially those in Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico, which rely on import commodities from the continental U.S.
The Cato Institute estimates that after accounting for the inflated costs of transportation and infrastructure, the forgone wages and output, the lost domestic and foreign business revenue, and the monetized environmental toll, the annual cost of the Jones Act is in the tens of billions of dollars.
Additionally, the Jones Act makes it more difficult to provide relief supplies in the aftermath of natural disasters. As a result, presidents have routinely waived the Jones Act in the wake of natural disasters, as they have done after Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, and Maria.
Sen. Lee previously introduced a version of this legislation in 2019.