Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will block two Department of Commerce nominees because he believes the Trump administration has delayed investigations into cheap aluminum and steel imports impacting several U.S. manufacturers, including Nucor Steel in Auburn.
Schumer, D-N.Y., informed President Donald Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that he will place holds on the nominations of Gil Kaplan and Nazakhtar Nikakhtar. Kaplan is Trump's choice to serve as undersecretary of commerce for international trade. Nikakhtar, if confirmed, will become assistant secretary of commerce, industry and analysis.
The action stems from Schumer's frustration with how the Trump administration has handled investigations into how aluminum and steel imports from China and other countries are affecting U.S. companies.
"Upstate New York companies like Alcoa and Nucor want to provide high-quality aluminum and steel to businesses in and around the country, but overproduction from China and other countries is threatening upstate New York's metal industry by making it almost impossible for companies that play by the rules to compete," Schumer said.
Schumer sent a letter to Ross in August urging the Commerce Department to conclude Section 232 investigations, which are initiated to determine how imports impact national security. Ross said in June that the investigations would conclude "very shortly," but there haven't been any new developments since that announcement.
One of Schumer's concerns is that imports from China and other countries are heavily subsidized, which places American manufacturers at a disadvantage.
According to Schumer's office, finished steel imports held 27 percent of the U.S. market in September. The surge in imports this year has led to the closure of a factory in Pennsylvania.
"While the (Trump administration) once preached efforts to crack down on China, it now appears they were just reading us a fairy tale of promises, which actually does not live up to a real crackdown on foreign predatory trade practices," Schumer said.
He added that his holds on Kaplan and Nikakhtar's nominations will remain in place until the Commerce Department "provides a satisfactory and meaningful response on the progress of critical investigations that will help protect our upstate steel and aluminum companies."
Schumer's letter was sent in advance of Trump's trip to Asia. The president is scheduled to visit China, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Vietnam during his 12-day trip.