Legislation aimed at protecting shoe manufacturing jobs in Maine is sailing toward approval, with Maine’s congressional delegation pushing for final passage.

The Department of Defense budget passed in the House late Wednesday with language inserted by U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, of Maine. Poliquin, R-2nd District, pushed for language in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2017 that made certain the Berry Amendment — which requires the military to buy U.S.-made apparel for recruits — is fully implemented, according to a news release Thursday from the congressman.

The Senate’s version of the NDAA was passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee last week and is expected to be brought to the full Senate for consideration next week.

The defense department has been giving recruits vouchers to buy athletic shoes of their choosing rather than U.S.-made athletic shoes, saying that American manufacturers don’t make shoes that comply with Berry requirements. Under the requirement, the military would buy athletic shoes for recruits, something the Pentagon had agreed to in 2014 but had yet to comply with.

Boston-based New Balance has three shoe manufacturing operations in Maine — in Skowhegan, Norridgewock and Norway — employing about 900 workers, and the company has made a shoe that it said conforms to the amendment. All of those operations are in the second congressional district, which is represented by Poliquin.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, last week announced he had secured a provision in the Senate’s version of the NDAA. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, had also introduced standalone legislation earlier aimed at passing the same language.


“This amendment is a huge victory for the hardworking men and women in Skowhegan, Norridgewock, and Norway who have worked day in and day out to make some of the best, highest-quality athletic shoes available,” King said in a statement at the time. “Our government should be doing all it can to advance policies that support them — not ship their jobs overseas. By requiring the Pentagon to bring its practices in line with the law, this amendment will ensure that those who serve our country have the finest American-made footwear available and support good jobs here in Maine and across the country.”

Matt LeBretton, vice president of public affairs for New Balance, could not be reached immediately for comment Thursday. But in a statement last week released jointly with King, LeBretton called the provision “a monumental victory for New Balance and for Maine.”

“At the end of the day, this will mean jobs for Maine people,” he said.

Poliquin’s language in the House bill will “help American manufacturers, providing our military recruits with the best equipment available, and ensuring that U.S. tax dollars go to U.S. workers and families, and not to workers overseas,” a statement from Poliquin’s office said Thursday morning.

New Balance developed a shoe last year that the company says is made from the required amount of U.S.-supplied materials. While New Balance is one of the few athletic shoe manufacturers that makes shoes in the U.S., much of the material used is from other countries.

Poliquin said in the release that he worked for months with colleagues from both parties, particularly Democratic Rep. Niki Tsongas, of Massachusetts, “tirelessly pushing the Pentagon to purchase American-made training shoes.”

“I am proud that this critical and bipartisan language has passed through the House to make sure the Berry Amendment is fully implemented,” he said. “This is a landmark victory for our American manufacturers, for our military recruits, and for our taxpayers.”

Poliquin and Tsongas were successful in getting the language included in the NDAA last month.

Scott Ogden, a spokesman for King, said Thursday that King’s work to “secure the provision in the committee’s markup of the bill was a good and important step forward, and he will work hard alongside Senator Collins to ensure that the provision remains in the bill as it moves forward.”

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