Vulnerable Steel-State Democrats Press Biden to Stop Nippon Deal

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(Bloomberg) -- Two steel-state Democrats in tough reelection fights are urging President Joe Biden to do more to stop the proposed acquisition of United States Steel Corp. by Japan-based Nippon Steel Corp.

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“We’re pushing the White House on national security grounds and on trade enforcement,” Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio told Bloomberg Television. “And fundamentally what this means for American workers and American jobs.”

Biden has publicly opposed the takeover and said the company should be American-owned.

The Biden administration is putting the deal through a secretive national security review process, one that is typically reserved for businesses involving adversarial nations rather than allies like Japan. The decision by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States could be contested in court.

The US Justice Department also opened an extended antitrust investigation into the takeover, creating additional hurdles to closing the deal. As a result, the companies are now considering delaying the expected deal timeline.

Read more: Japan’s US Steel Takeover Creates Election-Year Firestorm

Brown’s Senate race is considered one of the most competitive contests this November, and appealing to industrial workers is key to his reelection hopes. US Steel went against the request of the steelworkers union, which would have preferred the Ohio-based Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. mining company to make the acquisition.

Democratic Senator Bob Casey, facing a competitive reelection in next-door Pennsylvania, where US Steel is headquartered in Pittsburgh, also is championing the cause.

“My principal concern are those steelworker jobs and this deal gives me great concern about the threat to those jobs,” Casey told Bloomberg Television. Casey says he’s inquiring with the White House about how conflict over the acquisition was handled in Biden’s discussions with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during his state visit this week.

“I’m going to be asking the administration a lot of questions about what was raised in those bilateral meetings,” he said. “I want to know at what level and to what extent these issues were raised.”

When asked about the takeover at a joint press conference with Kishida, Biden reiterated his promise to back the United Steelworkers Union in its opposition to the deal.

“I stand by my commitment to American workers,” said Biden, who was endorsed by the union last month.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump also has said he would try to block the deal if elected.

Nippon Steel says the deal will make the American steel industry more competitive. Direct employment in steel manufacturing is actually dropping in the US, down 49% in the last three decades according to the Congressional Research Service.

The Japanese company’s promise of new investment is a selling point for Republican Senator Todd Young, whose home state of Indiana produces more steel than any other.

“Based on my reading of it, the Nippon Corporation desires to invest heavily in the workforce, in the plant, in research and development, all things that have not been occurring to a sufficient degree,” Young told Bloomberg Television. “So I think it could be beneficial to the community.”

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