Congressional Democrats say they won’t allow a vote on President Trump’s nominee for U.S. trade representative unless lawmakers pass a bill helping coal miners.
The Miner’s Protection Act includes healthcare and pension benefits for coal miners and their families. World Trade Online reports that Robert Lighthizer cannot be confirmed as U.S Trade Representative without a waiver, because of his representation of foreign governments in the 1980s. Senate Democrats say they’ll support the waiver only if it moves out of committee alongside--or after--the miner’s bill.
“The passage of the miner’s protection act is critical, and not just for the health and welfare of our members, and our retirees, and their families, but for the communities in which they live,” said Phil Smith, communications director for The United Mine Workers of America.
Congress funded a temporary extension of miners’ health benefits late last year, but that expires in April. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, introduced a competing bill earlier this year that would fund miner’s health benefits, but not their pensions.
“Coal fields in America have gone through a really rough time the last six years. And if we’re going to dig our way out of that problem, we have to start with making sure that the retiree health care benefits and pension benefits these people earned are there,” Smith said.
Smith says any bill that passes Congress has to include support for the pensions retired coal miners have earned.