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Franken and challenger McFadden still sparring over U.S. vs. imported steel

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A comment made last week by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden, that he would be open to using steel made in China to build a new oil pipeline if it were cheaper than U.S. steel, is still dogging him.

Several union leaders and DFLers on the Iron Range criticized McFadden for his position during a news conference Friday, the Northland News Center reports. McFadden is running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Al Franken in the November election.

At issue is the Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,700-mile oil pipeline proposed to deliver oil from Canada through the Midwest to refineries in the South. The project has been hotly debated for several years, in part because of questions over its impact on the environment. It still awaits final approval.

On the Iron Range, the debate has more to do with the economic boost it would give to the Minnesota iron and steel industry.

McFadden said during a debate at Farm Fest in southern Minnesota last week (pictured above) that he thinks the pipeline should be built as soon as possible. Afterward, reporters asked him a few more questions, according to the Forum News Service, including whether he would support using steel from China to build the pipeline, if it were the cheapest available.

“I would love to see us use U.S. products when we can,” McFadden said. “But it must be cost competitive. I am a supporter of free and fair trade.” The Forum News Service followed up, asking, "would Chinese steel be OK?"

“Yes,” McFadden replied, “If it is not being subsidized by the Chinese government.”

“Mike McFadden sent a loud and clear message to Iron Range families that he will not stand up for them in the Senate—not on jobs, not on American steel and not on the issues that matter to middle-class families, Melin said at the Friday news conference, according a state DFL Party news release.

McFadden then shot back that Melin and other DFLers who spoke supported the new Vikings stadium, which is being constructed in part with foreign steel. He also said that Sen. Franken voted for a loophole that would allow the Keystone pipeline to be built with non-U.S. steel, according to the Star Tribune.

A Franken spokeswoman said there was no such loophole, and that Franken voted for one of two bills that included an American steel requirement.

The emphasis on American vs. foreign steel is an indication that the Republican Party is courting Iron Range voters, many of whom traditionally vote Democratic. GOP candidates also say they strongly support new mining projects in northeastern Minnesota, and are criticizing Democrats for not doing so, according to the Forum News Service.

Here's a map of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route.

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