WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bipartisan group of more than 50 lawmakers are voicing opposition to Nippon Steel’s planned $14.9 billion acquisition of U.S. Steel. Japan’s largest steelmaker announced the deal last month, beating out bids from steel competitors Cleveland-Cliffs, ArcelorMittal and Nucor.

What You Need To Know

  • A number of Ohio lawmakers oppose the sale of U.S. Steel to Nippon, Japan's largest steelmaker

  • Lawmakers sent a letter to President Biden requesting a federal review of the deal

  • The deal, expected to be completed by September, could be postponed by such a review

Since the deal’s announcement in December, a group of 53 House members, led by Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging a federal regulatory review before the deal is finalized.

Other Ohio House members who signed Kaptur’s letter include Rep. Emilia Sykes, D-Ohio, Greg Landsman, D-Ohio, Rep. Shontel Brown, D-Ohio.

Rep. Max Miller, R-Ohio, also said he opposed the deal.

Kaptur has seen firsthand the effects of the American steel industry’s decline.

U.S. Steel was once the largest steel producer in the world. Beginning in the late 1990s, however, China began to dominate steel production. Chinese companies began to flood the international market with steel at below-market prices. Many American companies could not compete — more than 40 have gone out of business since 1990.

“You can come to Lorain, Ohio—you should go—and you can see empty U.S. Steel plants on the waterfront there,” Kaptur said.

Since Kaptur was elected in 1983, the number of U.S. steelworkers has fallen 63.7%, from 184,078 workers in 1983 to 66,810 workers in 2022, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Kaptur argued the sale of the iconic American steelmaker to a foreign company could constitute a threat to national security.

“I’m very much against the deindustrialization of America or selling off our assets to foreign entities,” she said. “As they acquire companies in our country, we become more foreign-dependent.”

That sentiment echoes the findings of a 2018 report released by the Department of Commerce, which found the country’s defense and economy would be at risk if domestic steel production declines.

Later that year, the Trump administration applied 25% tariff on steel imports, under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, which allows the president to adjust imports if excessive foreign imports are found to be a threat to U.S. national security.

“The Section 232 tariffs that were implemented during the Trump administration that I think really did a good job at protecting some of our domestic steel industry,” said Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio.

The freshman senator also opposes the deal on national security grounds, even though Japan is an ally of the U.S.

“If, say, we needed to build an aircraft carrier and we needed steel from that facility that was being purchased, would we have access to it if we were in a worldwide steel slowdown?” he said. “I worry the answer is no.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, released his own statement criticizing the deal. He questioned why U.S. Steel did not more seriously consider the bid from American company Cleveland-Cliffs, though Nippon’s bid paid $20 more per share than Cleveland-Cliff’s.

“This company in the U.S., Cleveland Clifffs, makes the cleanest steel in the world. If you care about addressing climate change, this wasn’t a particularly good deal for us,” Brown said.

The deal is expected to close by September, though that date could be pushed back depending on how long a review would take.

Reviving U.S. manufacturing has been a key priority for President Joe Biden, and a pillar of his campaign platform. His national economic advisor, Lael Brainard, said in a statement the deal deserved “serious scrutiny.”