Before speaking to reporters on his regular Wednesday press call, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown spoke on the Senate floor, saying he will vote for Ben Carson to be the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Sen. Brown, ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, a committee that oversee legislation related to housing, said Carson committed in private and public meetings to be considerate on issues ranging from lead in drinking water to fair housing to remedies to homelessness.

At Dr. Carson’s hearing, Sen. Brown expressed his regret about Carson’s belief that government assistance programs are harmful. Carson argues African-Americans had become dependent on so-called “paternalistic attitudes” that created federal/state programs to take care of people Carson described as “ignorant, stupid, or just plain lazy” who couldn’t take care of themselves. Carson believes that dependence on government is done “to cultivate a dependable voting bloc that will guarantee continued power as long as entitlements are provided.”

Carson’s suggestion that all assistance programs be cut by 10 percent a year until the budget is balanced, including social insurance programs like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, also gave Brown great pause.

In a statement on why he’s supporting Mr. Carson, a skilled surgeon who was among last year’s stable of losing Republican presidential candidates, Sen. Brown said that even though Mr. Carson would not have been his nominee to lead the agency, he’ll give him the benefit of the doubt “because of commitments he has made to me in person and to the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee in his testimony and written responses.” He in turn wants the secretary to know that he’ll “…do everything in my power to hold Dr. Carson accountable for making good on his promises.”

You can read Dr. Carson’s responses to Sen. Brown’s questions here.

Brown represents a strong voice on the need to repair, maintain and build infrastructure., and when that infrastructure contains steel, among other building materials, few equal his advocacy to use American made steel needed for the nation’s roads, bridges, tunnels, among other important infrastructure.

World Trade Organization

The topic of today’s call was the senator’s release of a new report from the Alliance for American Manufacturing highlighting how the World Trade Organization (WTO) undermines the United States’ ability to enforce its trade laws and protect American workers. Brown used the report’s findings to outline how the WTO allows trade violations to go unchecked, particularly as it relates to China, and has cracked down on U.S. laws meant to fight back against illegal competition.

President Trump has made a big deal of trade and trade deficits, so Ohio’s senior senator is calling on his administration to reset the U.S. trade relationship with China. The Financial Times recently reported that the Trump Administration is looking for ways to bypass the WTO in order to impose direct sanctions on China for trade violations.

“As this report shows, in decision after decision, the WTO has ruled against the U.S. and weakened our laws designed to fight back against subsidies and illegal dumping,” Brown said in prepared remarks. “Rather than providing American steel companies with a way to crack down on Chinese cheating, the WTO has undermined the tools our businesses need to defend themselves and their workers.”

Resetting the trade relationship between America and China, he said, begins with a reset at the WTO. “This is something I’ve called for, and I’m encouraged by the news from the White House this week that they’re preparing a plan to bypass the WTO and take direct action against China and other countries where we have trade disputes.” Brown’s office said the senator has urged presidents of both parties to address China’s unfair trade practices and take concrete steps to protect American workers. He’s added Mr. Trump to his list with a letter last November offering specific ways to work together in order to overhaul U.S. trade policy to put workers first and hold China to its trade obligations. Specifically, Brown called on Trump to work with him to fight currency manipulation, maintain China’s nonmarket economy status, and crack down on China’s steel overcapacity, which has led to job losses in Ohio and nationwide.

Even though Sen. Brown and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman represent different political parties, the duo teams up on occasion, as they did last year in a letter to former U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman urging him to bring a WTO case against China in an effort to address aluminum overcapacity, which hurts American aluminum manufacturers and their workers. The two senators were of like mind again in a letter to former President Obama seeking continued efforts from the Administration to reduce China’s excess steel capacity through enhanced trade enforcement.

Leveling the Playing Field Act,” a Brown bill cosponsored by Portman and signed into law in June 2015, restored strength to antidumping and countervailing duty statutes that allow businesses and workers in the United States to petition the Commerce Department and the ITC when foreign producers, including China, sell goods in the U.S. below market price or receive illegal subsidies, Brown’s office said. This new law led to key wins for Ohio steel companies in major trade cases last year on cold-rolled, hot-rolled, and corrosion-resistant steel, including U.S. Steel, Nucor, ArcelorMittal, and AK Steel, which together employ more than 8,200 Ohio workers.

Brown: Trump Investigation, New Dem Leadership

Sen Brown was asked to off-topic questions. On the issue of whether the president and his campaign interacted with Russia and Mr. Putin in the election last year, should Congress get involved, and if so, would you prefer a committee investigation, an independent commission or a special prosecutor?

Brown responded rapid-fire mode, “Yes, yes, and yes.”

The DNC has new leadership in Tom Perez and Keith Ellison. Now that your reelection campaign has effectively started with potential Republican challengers taking aim at you, what are your thoughts on how the DNC will renew itself and what do you see the relationship between the national party and the Ohio Democratic Party going forward?

“I’m doing my job here everyday, and I don’t rely on anyone in my campaigns except the public.” In two years Sen. Brown will run for a third term. One Republican, State Treasurer Josh Mandel, is already aiming at the incumbent with statements and fundraising letters.

Brown defeated Mandel in 2012 by a comfortable margin, but with the rise of the Trump movement, the political landscape has changed from four years ago when the resources of the White House and its Democratic occupant at the time, President Obama, could help the senator. Sen. Brown will first have a challenge in fundraising and a second challenge in whether the Ohio Democratic Party, or new leadership at the Democratic National Committee in Washington, can outperform an energized Ohio Republican Party and participation by President Trump who is expected to stump for the GOP as it sets its sights on defeating Brown, one of only two Democrats who have won statewide elections since 2006.

Joining Sen. Brown on today’s press call was Scott Paul, President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, and Elizabeth Drake, a co-author of the report. “Given that many WTO decisions, and in particular rulings by its appellate body, have stunningly overreached and unfairly targeted U.S. trade enforcement measures, we must consider all of our options at this moment. Factory workers in Ohio and across America deserve better,” Paul said.

The report Brown and his guests spoke to today outlines how WTO decisions have weakened U.S. trade enforcement laws and made it more difficult to crack down on countries, like China, who violate international trade rules and hurt American workers. The report identifies specific industries, including the steel industry, that have been the subject of these disputes and harmed by WTO decisions.