- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2016

A proposal to require the Defense Department to buy U.S.-made sneakers has cleared the House, bringing the concept closer than ever to become federal law.

The provision supported by Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine and Democratic Rep. Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts, was included in the defense spending bill approved by the House on Wednesday. The full Senate will likely take up the proposal when it debates its version of the spending bill next week.

The provision would benefit Massachusetts-based New Balance, the only major athletic shoe company that still makes its footwear in the United States. New Balance employs 900 people at three Maine factories in Skowhegan, Norridgewock and Norway in Maine.

“This is a landmark victory for our American manufacturers, for our military recruits, and for our taxpayers,” Poliquin said Thursday.

The Berry Amendment requires the military to try to purchase items domestically, and uniforms and boots are made in the U.S. But the military provides vouchers to recruits to purchase sneakers of their own choosing for physical fitness training.

While New Balance makes shoes in Maine, the company also makes shoes overseas and uses materials from other countries for U.S.-made shoes. Its shoe proposed for the military would meet Berry Amendment requirements.

Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine already included similar language in the defense spending bill that was adopted by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Our government should be doing all it can to advance policies that support (Maine workers), not ship their jobs overseas,” he said previously.

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