Senate Dems draw hard line over miners' pension bill
Four Senate Democrats are threatening to play hardball as they angle for the Senate to take up a miners' pension bill before it leaves town for the year. 
 
Democrat Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinMcConnell, Schumer fail to cut power-sharing deal amid filibuster snag Josh Hawley has a new publisher — that's good news This week: Tensions running high in Trump's final days MORE (W.Va.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownFacebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Biden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs Streamlining the process of prior authorization for medical and surgical procedures MORE (Ohio), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDemocrats looking to speed through Senate impeachment trial Capitol Police officer hailed as hero for drawing rioters away from Senate chamber Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect MORE (Pa.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSocial media posts, cellphone data aid law enforcement investigations into riots 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate Confirmation hearing for Biden's DNI pick postponed MORE (Va.) said Monday they will block the Senate from passing any bills by unanimous consent until the upper chamber has "adequately addressed" legislation to protect retired coal miners' pension and healthcare benefits.
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“These miners cannot wait another day and it’s up to us to protect what they’ve earned for a lifetime of dangerous, backbreaking work. We are confident this bill would pass on the floor and we demand action to provide long-term certainty for these miners," the senators said in a joint statement.  

 

The Miners Protection Act cleared the Finance Committee in September. It would provide funds to an underfunded pension plan for miners by using excess money from a federal program for cleaning abandoned mines.
 
The miners' pension plan is headed toward insolvency. Thousands of retired miners and their families are expected to lose their healthcare benefits at the end of the year unless Congress acts. The senators are hoping their move will force congressional leadership to either include the provision in a short-term government funding bill or give the bill a stand-alone vote.
 
The four Democrats added that they've been pushing the Senate to pass the legislation for months but "those calls have gone unanswered." 

The pension bill has also faced opposition from Sen. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziSenate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes With Senate at stake, Georgia is on all our minds Wyoming mask mandate backed by GOP lawmakers goes into effect MORE (R-Wyo.), the Senate Budget Committee chairman. Enzi blasted the bill last month, saying that while he supports coal miners, the legislation is a "bogus fix that only works on paper, not in the real world.” 

The senators' threat to block the use of unanimous consent could complicate business in the Senate, which already faces a packed week as senators aims to leave Washington for the year at the end of next week. They need to pass a medical innovation bill, an annual defense policy bill, the short-term funding legislation and a water resources proposal. Senators could try to use unanimous consent — which requires every senator to sign off — to squeak through non-controversial proposals that have languished in committees. 
 

If legislation isn't passed by the end of the year, lawmakers will need to resubmit it next year at the start of the new Congress.