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Senate limits debate on steel-quotas bill

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The steel industry lost a key vote Tuesday as a measure to impose quotas on foreign steel shipments failed to clear a procedural hurdle.

The Senate voted 42-57 to restrict debate on the bill -- 18 short of the 60 votes needed, and short even of getting a majority. Supporters of the measure sought quotas as a way to help combat low-priced steel imports and preserve U.S. steelworking jobs.Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., argued against the bill, joining Clinton administration officials in warning that quotas could start an international trade war. Hundreds of steelworkers rallied near the Capitol Tuesday morning in a last-minute push in support of quotas.

The test on quotas followed Senate passage Friday of a bill that would create a $1.5 billion loan program for U.S. steel, oil and gas producers hurt by fallen prices. The steel industry says the loans would only be a first step toward addressing its plight.