(WASHINGTON) — President Trump on Wednesday pledged he would not waive the Jones Act to allow foreign-flagged ships to transport liquefied natural gas among U.S. ports, Republicans defending the mandate said after a White House meeting, Bloomberg reported.
The lawmakers from Alaska and the shipbuilding Gulf Coast states of Mississippi and Louisiana said Trump ruled out Jones Act waivers in order to facilitate shipments of LNG to Massachusetts and Puerto Rico.
“He’s not going to make any changes to the Jones Act,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-La. “The president’s not one to beat around the bush. He was pretty categorical.”
The pledge marks a rapid reversal in White House thinking – and a victory for U.S. shipbuilding interests and their allies on Capitol Hill. The president was said to be leaning in favor of some kind of waiver after an Oval Office meeting on the issue last week.
“The president gave his word,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La. “Every senator who walked out of that room felt confident” that Trump would “oppose any changes to the Jones Act and any waivers of the Jones Act."
In addition to Kennedy and Cassidy, the lawmakers pressing Trump in Wednesday’s meeting included Alaska Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan; Mississippi Republican Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith; and the No. 2 Republican in the House, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
Waiver supporters, such as billionaire oilman Harold Hamm, have promoted the exemptions as essential to lower the cost of energy in Puerto Rico and ease the flow of American natural gas to the Northeast, where there aren’t enough pipelines to deliver the product from Pennsylvania.
However, opponents argue the Jones Act provides critical support to the U.S. shipbuilding industry, promoting domestic vessel manufacturing capabilities that are essential to national security and the country’s maritime might. The act requires that goods being transported via water between U.S. ports be on ships constructed in the country and crewed by American mariners.
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