President Biden on Wednesday vetoed a Republican-led effort that could have thwarted the administration’s plans to invest $7.5 billion to build electric vehicle charging stations across the country.
In issuing the veto, Mr. Biden argued that the congressional resolution would have hurt domestic manufacturing as well as the clean energy transition.
“If enacted, this resolution would undermine the hundreds of millions of dollars that the private sector has already invested in domestic E.V. charging manufacturing, and chill further domestic investment in this critical market,” Mr. Biden said in a statement.
The move comes amid a growing political divide over electric vehicles. The Biden administration is aggressively promoting them as an important part of the fight to slow global warming. The landmark climate law signed in 2022 by Mr. Biden, the Inflation Reduction Act, offers incentives to consumers to buy electric vehicles and to manufacturers to build them in the United States.
Republicans, including former President Donald J. Trump, Mr. Biden’s likely challenger in the 2024 election, have attacked electric vehicles as unreliable, inconvenient and ceding America’s auto manufacturing to China, which dominates the supply chain for electric vehicles.
Republicans, with some Democrats, voted to repeal a waiver issued by the Biden administration that allows federally funded electric vehicle chargers to be made from imported iron and steel, as long as they are assembled in the United States.
The “buy American” requirement of the 2021 infrastructure law says that iron and steel produced in the United States must be used for projects funded by the Federal Highway Administration Act. The law includes $7.5 billion to build a national network for recharging electric vehicles.
Installing electric vehicle charging stations is a top priority of the administration because surveys show that many motorists who are interested in buying E.V.s are hesitant to do so because of a lack of convenient charging stations.
Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, introduced the effort to kill the waiver. “It hurts American companies and empowers foreign adversaries, like China, to control our energy infrastructure,” he said in July. “We should never use American dollars to subsidize Chinese-made products.”
On Wednesday, learning of Mr. Biden’s veto, Mr. Rubio wrote on the social media platform X, “Why is he sending American taxpayer dollars to Chinese companies?”
The White House argued that by repealing the waiver, lawmakers were actually blocking made-in-America requirements.
That’s because a repeal would have caused a return to a 1983 policy that waives domestic requirements for many manufactured products. That would have made it more likely that federal funds would be “spent on chargers made in competitor nations like the People’s Republic of China,” Mr. Biden said in his veto statement.
The Senate voted, 50-48, in November to repeal the wavier, with the Democrats Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana joining Republicans to remove the exemption. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky was the only Republican to oppose the measure.
The House voted, 209 to 198, in January for the repeal. Two Democrats, Jared Golden of Maine and Donald Davis of North Carolina, voted with Republicans in favor of the measure. Two Republicans, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Tom McClintock of California, opposed it.