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President Biden, Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman voice opposition to Japanese purchase of U.S. Steel

Biden questions purchase of U.S. Steel by Japanese steelmaker
Biden questions purchase of U.S. Steel by Japanese steelmaker 02:36

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- For the first time publicly, President Biden is questioning the proposed acquisition of U.S. Steel by a Japanese steelmaker.

As KDKA-TV money editor Jon Delano reports, that brought a positive response from the union that represents steelworkers.

While a government interagency group evaluates whether Nippon Steel's purchase of U.S. Steel raises national security issues, President Biden has remained mum, but on Thursday he broke his silence with a statement from the White House.

"U.S. Steel has been an iconic American steel company for more than a century, and it is vital for it to remain an American steel company that is domestically owned and operated," the president said in a statement.

The statement made no reference to Nippon Steel, Japan's largest steelmaker and the fourth largest in the world.

But Biden did note, "It is important that we maintain strong American steel companies powered by American steel workers. I told our steel workers I have their backs, and I meant it."

Daniel Hornung, deputy director of the White House's National Economic Council, told KDKA-TV, "He really believes that a U.S.-owned and U.S.-operated steel sector is vital to the economy, vital to the supply chain and vital to national security."

"I don't want to get ahead of the president or the process from here, but that's obviously a belief that he very firmly holds."

What happens next is unclear. The interagency investigation has not reported, but Bernie Hall, Pennsylvania director of the United Steelworkers union, praised the President's position.

"We think this is what leadership looks like, and we commend the president," said Hall.

Delano: "Does this mean the Nippon Steel acquisition of U.S. Steel is dead?"

Hall: "It's hard to say what Nippon will do. I certainly don't speak for them, but I certainly wouldn't bet on the deal going forward."

Meanwhile, Senator Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) has also released a statement voicing his opposition to the sale. 

"Pennsylvania workers are the American steel industry's greatest asset. I have long held concerns that this sale could be a bad deal for our workers, and I share President Biden's commitment to maintaining an American steel industry. My number one priority is protecting union jobs in the Mon Valley and I'll work like hell against any deal that leaves our Steelworkers behind."

Casey has been against the sale since it was announced in December and has repeatedly urged the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to block the sale. 

"I hope U.S. Steel will consider other options here, in light of what the president said and in light of the opposition that I think you've seen across the board," said Casey.

Pennsylvania's other senator, John Fetterman, joined Biden and Casey in voicing his opposition to the sale. 

"When the planned sale was first announced in December, I said that I would do everything in my power to block it. I'm proud that President Biden has never wavered in defending American workers and will fight this deal. I live in a steel community. My home in Braddock, PA, is right across the street from U.S. Steel's Edgar Thomson plant. I've long said that steel is about security – both national security and the economic security of the workers and steel communities. We cannot let these steelworkers and these communities get sold out by executives who only care about lining their own pockets. The president's opposition to this disastrous proposed sale is a significant step. I'm proud to stand with President Biden and the United Steelworkers. We have to block this sale." 

So far, there's been no reaction from either Nippon Steel or U.S. Steel.

The issue could become a political one as both Joe Biden and Donald Trump campaign for votes in Pennsylvania.  Former President Trump said in January that he would block the deal.  

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