Senate Finance Dems push for solution on coal miners' benefits

Senate Finance Dems push for solution on coal miners' benefits
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Several Senate Finance Committee Democrats on Wednesday made another effort to protect coal miners' pensions in exchange for clearing the path on the nomination for the nation’s top trade official.

Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinMcConnell backs miners health fix in funding bill Lighthizer unanimously approved by Senate panel Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups MORE (W.Va.), ranking member Ron WydenRon WydenSchumer: Senate Russia probe moving too slowly Lighthizer unanimously approved by Senate panel Trump to impose tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber MORE (Ore.), Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownFive things to know about Trump's steel order Trump administration investigating effect of steel imports on US Mexico: Recent deportations 'a violation' of US immigration rules MORE (Ohio), Bob CaseyBob CaseyGOP fundraiser enters crowded primary for Pa. Senate seat Pennsylvania GOP rep announces bid for Casey's Senate seat We need to pass the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act to fight hate and bigotry MORE (Pa.) and Mark WarnerMark WarnerSchumer: Senate Russia probe moving too slowly Senate Intel Dem has ‘serious concerns’ on Russia probe GOP senator hits back at criticism of Russia probe MORE (Va.) want panel Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin HatchMcConnell signals Republican-only path on tax reform Lighthizer unanimously approved by Senate panel Disconnect: Trump, GOP not on same page MORE (R-Utah) to agree to attach the coal miners bill to the congressional waiver needed for the nomination of Robert Lighthizer, who has been tapped as the next U.S. Trade Representative.

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“We are disappointed Chairman Hatch has not responded to our letter last week or made a commitment to working with us to find a long-term solution to protect these benefits our coal miners earned through a lifetime of hard work,” the senators said.

As of last week, 22,600 miners began receiving letters informing them that their healthcare benefits would be terminated at the end of April, the third notice in the past four months.

"Our miners did everything we asked of them, and it is time that we uphold our end of the bargain and provide them with the permanent benefits they earned through a lifetime of work," the lawmakers wrote. 

Hatch has said he doesn't think Lighthizer's nomination should be contingent upon completing the coal-miner legislation.

Lighthizer will require the House and Senate to pass a waiver before he is approved to head up the USTR because he represented foreign governments in trade negotiations in 1985 and 1991.