Congress really wants to get out of Washington, D.C. and go home for the holidays, but they cannot seem to do it without trying to screw some workers first. As they continue to debate a continuing budget resolution through April, 2017, they are stuck on the question of whether there should be a permanent resolution to the question of coal miners' pensions and healthcare.
Hence, Democrats are filibustering the current form of the continuing resolution, led by Senators Heidi Heitkamp, Sherrod Brown, Mark Warner, Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin. They are holding out for a 12-month extension of the benefits rather than seeing them run out in April.
Yet Republican Senators think it's fine to simply let those miners languish and somehow manage on their own. According to Politico, "[Sen. John] Cornyn predicted Republicans would be able to break the Democrat filibuster on Saturday if needed. He argued that [Sens. Joe] Manchin and [Sherrod] Brown should be “grateful” for the four-month extension.”
It isn't just their pensions, either. It's also their health care.
Republicans were so concerned about the budget and possibility of a government shutdown that they recessed in order to attend the White House holiday party yesterday, rather than deal with the business at hand.
NPR describes the current situation:
After the Patriot bankruptcy in 2012, the UMWA negotiated a $400 million payment in bankruptcy court for retirees benefits. Existing companies pay into a UMWA fund for retirees, but as those mines close, there is less money going into the pot and the number of retired miners who are drawing from it is increasing. The fund is about to run out of money.
The UMWA's hope was that the $400 million would give federal lawmakers the time they needed to pass legislation that would protect the miners.
Senate Democrats have been working for years to pass the Miners Protection Act — a bill that would move money from the Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation Fund into a fund to pay for the pension and health care benefits of tens of thousands of coal miners and retirees.
These miners were promised health care for life and a pension in an agreement made in 1947. The owners of the mines declaring bankruptcy have made their millions on the backs, lungs, and work of those miners, who had a good-faith belief they would receive the pension and health benefits to which they were entitled.
This is how Republicans will continue to betray workers. They'll break unions, they'll screw workers, and they'll automate as much as they can. Dear Leader Trump won't lift a finger, because this has been their plan all along. There was never a plan for jobs, never a plan to protect workers, never a plan to replace the ACA, and never a plan to make America great.
They now have what they've always wanted. To take us back to the 20s, when billionaires pillaged the land and left people standing in bread lines. Because liberty!