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Nolan defends Syrian refugee position

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan on Tuesday said his vote for a bill that would pause the Syrian refugee program was not a contradiction with earlier statements that the refugees should be allowed into the country.

Last week, Nolan voted in favor of the SAFE Act, designed to heighten security in the screening process for refugees. In a statement earlier that week, Nolan said he felt compelled as a Christian to let the refugees in.

"We have a dual moral obligation," he said in an interview with the Dispatch on Tuesday. "One is, we have to make sure that terrorists do not come into this country under the guise of refugees with the express purpose of doing harm to us. We've got to keep the American people safe. On the other hand, we do have a moral obligation, in my judgement, to step up—and make sure we have a good vetting process in place—but we have to take our fair share of (refugees). And we will."

Nolan said the bill had become fodder for both the right and left wing.

"People were judging their understanding of the bill based on the rhetoric that's going on between Fox and MSNBC, and not many people were looking at the actual bill," he said.

The bill "endorses the process that is already in place" for screening refugees, Nolan said.

In response to a question whether his support for allowing refugees in might pose a vulnerability to his campaign, he said it might, but only temporarily.

"At the moment, perhaps," he said. "People, after Paris, are understandably quite frightened. But I think that when they learn we have a really rigorous vetting process, they'll feel better about it."

Nolan said he had signed a letter with a number of other Democrats in the House asking the Obama administration to take in 100,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016.

Steel measures

On Monday, Nolan announced his proposal for a five-year ban on imported steel, in order to rectify losses in the domestic steel industry.

In addition to the proposed steel import ban, Nolan also intends to pressure President Obama to use executive action to impose tariffs and duties, he said on Tuesday. Nolan along with U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken as well as Gov. Mark Dayton have requested a meeting with Obama, he said.

"It's my intention to ask the president—to press the president, better yet—to utilize Section 201 of the International Trade Law," he said.

Section 201 says the president can institute tariffs in the event an industry vital to national security is economically threatened, Nolan said. The move has a precedent, Nolan said: George W. Bush invoked Section 201 to impose tariffs against imported steel in the early 2000s, and Ronald Reagan had a similar action during his term.

"They were both a couple of big time Free Traders," Nolan said. "But they understood the importance of mining and steel to our national economy and our national security."

Radinovich to manage Nolan campaign

Nolan confirmed that he plans to hire former DFL Minnesota Rep. Joe Radinovich to be his campaign manager. Radinovich has not yet been officially hired and he still has to put in his notice for his position at the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, Nolan said, but he's expected to start at the campaign after the first week in January.

Nolan said Radinovich was a good choice in every regard.

"He's an exceptionally bright, exceptionally capable guy, and he's got a good heart," he said. "He's one of us, he grew up with us here."

Nolan won't politicize effects of Fleet Farm sale, he says

Stewart Mills, Nolan's Republican opponent for next year's election, announced to the Dispatch in October that the Mills family would be selling the Mills Fleet Farm company.

Nolan was emphatic that he respected the Mills family and what they had done for the Brainerd community. The sale of Fleet Farm was simply business, he said.

However, Nolan said he feared the company would be bought by a "private equity group out of Manhattan." Nolan spent 32 years in business, he said, which included "some work in mergers and acquisitions." In his experience, company sales followed a pattern: promises of no layoffs initially that turned out not to be true, he said.

In the event of Fleet Farm layoffs, though, Nolan said he wouldn't jump on the political opportunity.

"I would not use something like that in the campaign," he said.

ZACH KAYSER may be reached at 218-855-5860 or Zach.Kayser@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ZWKayser.

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