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

Sen. Franken heads to Paris to meet with counterparts on climate talks

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Al Franken heads to Paris this week to help the U.S. negotiating team at the U.N. climate change conference, staffers said Tuesday.

Franken's trip follows President Obama's sojourn earlier this week to France where he met with world leaders attempting to craft a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Though Obama returned to D.C. Tuesday, the work continues in France among 30,000 diplomats, delegates and elected officials from the U.S., Europe and Asia charged with putting the agreement together.

The global pact could potentially have hundreds of countries signed on and would commit world leaders to enact policies that would reduce carbon emissions.

Franken's office said he will participate in talks with a handful of other U.S. senators, government leaders, businesses and clean energy advocates. 

"I'm proud to be a part of this momentous gathering and as a member of the Senate Energy Committee, I will continue to build on the ideas and solutions we develop in Paris," Franken said, in a statement.

But the GOP-controlled Congress has not expressed enthusiasm for the United States' participation in the climate talks and is actively moving to block any deals from becoming law.

Just back from Thanksgiving break and the House on Tuesday approved two resolutions that would block Obama's plan to force emissions cuts to American power plants. The Senate has already approved the measures, though Obama has said he will veto it when it reaches his desk.


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.

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