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Steelworker running for Congress: Bush ignored industry needs

Steelworker running for Congress: Bush ignored industry needs

BETHLEHEM, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- President Bush has "turned his back" on American steelworkers and the industry's retirees by failing to provide maximum protection against cheaper, imported steel, a steelworker and congressional candidate said Saturday.

"I've watched over the years as steel has gone from being the backbone of the American economy to a struggling industry, whose decline has devastated countless families and entire communities," said Ed O'Brien in the Democrats' weekly radio address.

"Our steelmakers and steelworkers built the infrastructure that have made America the economic envy of the world. They have provided much of the muscle that has fortified the U.S. military, which is performing so heroically in the war on terrorism," said O'Brien, who is challenging Rep. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, for his House seat in Pennsylvania's 15th District.

Last week, in a move aimed at rescuing the ailing steel industry, Bush called for tariffs of up to 30 percent on some steel products entering the United States. The tariffs take effect March 20. Bush rejected an industry request that the government provide $10 billion in federal assistance for health and life insurance programs of steel industry retirees.

Instead, the president offered more modest aid through existing government programs and possible new tax credits to help pay health insurance costs.

"Guaranteeing these benefits is the single most important step the government could take toward restoring the long-term competitiveness of the U.S. steel industry," O'Brien said.

The congressional candidate also criticized the Bush administration's plan to dip into the Social Security Trust Fund for the proposed fiscal 2003 budget and a Republican proposal to privatize Social Security.

On another topic, O'Brien accused House Republicans of dragging their feet on an economic stimulus package in hopes of getting more tax breaks for companies such as Enron, before passing a stripped-down bill.

"At long last this week, they decided to choose the people's interests over the special interests, agreeing to an economic stimulus bill that extends unemployment benefits," he said. The Senate also passed the bill, which Bush signed Saturday.




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