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McCaskill targets 'dumping,' clarifies stance on unemployment benefits

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 11, 2011 - During her meetings this week with Missouri manufacturers, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says she's heard good news about job-creation -- and beefs about the lack of government protection from overseas "dumping."

"Dumping'' is a practice where other countries sell items in the United States at a lower price than what they cost to produce. The aim is to undercut domestic producers and eventually drive them out of business.

McCaskill said in an interview Wednesday that she's heard complaints alleging the "dumping" of nails and transformers.

What's worse, she said, is that the United States has anti-dumping laws on the books -- "with civil and criminal penalties" -- but manufacturers are telling her that the government is reluctant to enforce them.

"These are the kinds of things I love to sink my teeth into," she said. "Manufacturers across Missouri are continuing to be victimized."

The practical problem, McCaskill added, is that the responsibility lies ultimately with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is also under pressure to focus primarily on battling illegal immigration.

She also plans to press for congressional passage of a bill to require people staffing call centers to identify to callers where the call center is situated. "We need to require them to tell you where they are speaking to you from," McCaskill said.

Such a requirement also may encourage more companies to situate their call centers in the United States, the senator said, noting Missouri's growth as a call-center site.

As for unemployment benefits, McCaskill sought to correct some media reports that she said mischaracterized her stance.

McCaskill said she supports providing unemployment benefits up to 26 weeks, at minimum, but opposes federal extensions beyond 99 weeks. Some Democrats have proposed the extension because millions of Americans who lost jobs early on during the recession have been unable to find new ones.

"I'm being realistic about helping people," the senator said, noting that over the past two-plus years, "a huge chunk of government spending has been for unemployment benefits."

She added, "We need to make sure that we don't morph this (aid) into another entitlement."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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