, 2000

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JUNE 22, 1999  4:53 PM
Senator Paul Wellstone
Jim Farrell at 202/224-1472
Wellstone Blasts Clinton Administration for Undermining Senate Effort to End Steel Crisis; Cloture Vote to Terminate Filibuster Fails 42-57 After Lobbying by White House
WASHINGTON - June 22 - After the Senate came up short of the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster of a measure to end illegal dumping of cheap foreign steel in the U.S. today, Senator Paul Wellstone had harsh words for the Clinton Administration. The legislation (H.R. 975), sponsored by Senator Rockefeller (D-WV), Wellstone and others, sought to restrict Japan, Russia, Brazil and other countries from selling steel on U.S. markets at unfairly low prices, and in the process eliminating thousands of American steel industry jobs, many of which are located in Minnesota. Wellstone said that today's vote was a setback for recent Congressional efforts to bring relief to steelworkers and their families threatened by the illegal dumping tactics.

"The White House is saying that the steel crisis is over, and so they pulled all the stops to defeat this bill. Well, last weekend I was on the Iron Range in northeastern Minnesota. I talked to some of the workers who just got laid off at EVTAC Mining in Eveleth, Minnesota, and to some of the workers who are going to be laid off at the end of this month. For them, the steel crisis is not over. For their husbands and wives and children, the steel crisis is not over," Wellstone said.

"We are reeling from the effects of the most explosive surge of steel imports in U.S. history. A number of steel companies have declared bankruptcy. 10,000 workers have already lost their jobs. Thousands more are hanging by a thread. This is the most difficult challenge we've had to face since the hard times of the 1980s, when 350,000 steelworkers lost their jobs and 28,000 people left the Iron Range of Minnesota for good. As a Senator, I don't plan to let that happen again. For America's steelworkers, this steel crisis is not over," Wellstone said.

The Clinton Administration had said it opposed the Rockefeller/Wellstone bill because it would violate U.S. obligations to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The administration repeatedly had threatened to veto the measure.

But quota relief is already available under existing trade statutes and the WTO. U.S. trade laws and the WTO recognize the legitimate need of every country to prevent extraordinary import surges such as this one from destroying its industrial infrastructure and eliminating thousands of jobs. Under a trade law called Section 201, the Administration could limit imports if chose to. Wellstone maintains that the problem is not that limiting imports would break the rules, but that the Administration doesn't want to limit imports. He pledged to continue to press for relief for the steel industry.

"The Administration didn't hesitate to slap 100% tariffs on imports from Europe when Chiquita Banana had a trade complaint, and that dispute with Europe didn't even involve American jobs. It was about bananas grown in Central America. But when American steelworkers want their President to simply apply existing trade laws, his administration refuses. I just think they ought to be consistent and apply the law fairly in response to illegal dumping," Wellstone said.


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