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Tracking Minnesota’s political scene and keeping you up-to-date on those elected to serve you

Dayton, other Minn. leaders request meeting with Obama on foreign steel dumping

Top Minnesota political leaders have requested to meet with President Obama to urge him to combat the dumping of foreign steel on the U.S. market now afflicting Minnesota's steel industry.

Gov. Mark Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said Monday at a charity fundraiser for Iron Range food shelves that they hope the White House grants their request. The meeting would also include Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Al Franken and U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, Dayton said.

State leaders are reacting to turmoil in the country's steel industry, which has struggled to compete amid a glut of foreign steel they say is being unfairly underpriced by China and other countries. In Minnesota, hundreds of Iron Range miners are jobless after the idling of more than half of the state's taconite mines, Bakk said Monday. For some, unemployment benefits are ending this week, further adding to their economic plight.

"It's not just about a meeting," Dayton told reporters. "We want [Obama] to take action," under a provision of the U.S. Trade Act of 1979. Under that provision of federal law, the president can impose trade safeguards, such as tariffs on imports, while federal authorities conduct an expedited investigation of unfair trade practices.

Dayton, who like Bakk, has called for a special legislative session to extend unemployment benefits for idled miners on the Iron Range said federal officials need to act quickly.

"This is a very precarious situation and if we tip this industry over the brink, it will be virtually impossible to bring it back," he said.

Daudt, other state lawmakers in Turkey as part of U.S. group

House Speaker Kurt Daudt and two other Minnesota state representatives are in Istanbul, Turkey this week on a trip sponsored by a nonprofit organization. 

International tension in the region spiked on Tuesday after Turkey acknowledged that it shot down a Russian warplane along its border with Syria. 

Daudt, R-Crown, is part of a small Minnesota delegation that also includes Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, and Rep. Paul Rosenthal, DFL-Edina. The trip was put together by the Niagara Foundation, a Chicago-based nonprofit that "strives to promote social cohesion by fostering civic conversations and sustained relationships between people of different cultures and faiths," according to its website. 

Spokespeople for the House GOP and DFL said no taxpayer funds are being spent on the trip. 

A spokesman for the Niagara Foundation did not immediately respond to a request for more details about the trip. 

(This post has been updated.)

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