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Bipartisan group of senators targets manufacturing losses
McClatchy Newspapers


June 15, 2005

Washington - Is America's vanishing manufacturing sector a big and bipartisan enough concern to bring together two politicians with very different politics and a nasty history over a little something called impeachment?

Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, who has topped polls among potential Democratic presidential candidates for 2008 although she has not said she will run, and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a conservative Republican who in the House of Representatives helped manage the impeachment proceedings against Clinton's husband when he was president, think so.

They announced Tuesday they have formed and will lead a Senate Manufacturing Caucus, and they plan to travel the country in the coming months seeking input from companies and workers. Their 19-member caucus is made up of seven Republicans and 12 Democrats.

The United States lost 17.4 percent of its manufacturing jobs over the past four years, or about 3 million jobs, and Graham said South Carolina lost 21 percent of its manufacturing jobs over the same period. The nation's trade deficit also has shot up.

The senators said they did not yet have legislation in mind, and that they would examine an array of issues: trade abuses by China or India, the burden health care and pensions place on employers, relationships between labor and management, what types of products the nation ought to be manufacturing long-term vs. what products might make more sense to import, and whether the United States is retaining enough domestic-based weapons manufacturing capabilities for its national defense.

John P. Surma Jr., president and CEO of U.S. Steel Corp., applauded the creation of the caucus in a statement issued Tuesday and said, "The time is long overdue for a serious and far-reaching manufacturing agenda."

As unlikely an alliance as Clinton and Graham might seem, this is not their first joint endeavor. The two over the past year also have called for expanding the military and improving health care and benefits for National Guard and Reserve forces. But for Graham, the manufacturing alliance with Clinton comes only weeks after he created a stir among conservatives by joining a breakaway bipartisan group that blocked Republican Senate leaders from calling a vote on a plan to stop Democrats from filibustering President Bush's conservative judicial nominees.

"If we want to be a country that doesn't make anything, and that out-sources our national security and doesn't really have the capacity that makes the products that defend us and that provide the standard of living that Americans expect, well, that's a choice," Clinton said Tuesday. "But I don't think that's a conscious choice that most Americans would make. But that is the kind of the unconscious choice that we're making, that's the road we are traveling down."

Said Graham, "A nation that's unable to produce the component parts of the weapons systems that keep it free has weakened itself. And I think we're on the road to weakening ourselves as the manufacturing jobs continue to be lost."


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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