A bill to protect health care and pension benefits for about 120,000 retired coal miners and their families has moved forward in the Senate.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the measure Wednesday, with a vote of 18 to 8.
Six Republicans, including Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, joined all 12 Democrats in endorsing the bill. The office of Indiana Republican Senator Dan Coats released a statement explaining his opposition to the bill.
“Senator Coats has great sympathy for coal retirees, many of whom live in Indiana, and the senator will continue fighting the Obama Administration’s War on Coal, which has put retired miners in this terrible position. The senator does not support federal bailouts of private pensions, especially when many pension plans across the country are underfunded by trillions and could ask for their own bailout. Senator Coats does not believe that Congress should expose taxpayers to trillions in liabilities, especially when our debt is climbing to dangerous levels and the largest retiree benefit plans for taxpayers – Social Security and Medicare – are headed for bankruptcy themselves.”
Anne Baxter, a widow of a Kentucky coal miner, attended a rally in Washington D.C. earlier this month. She says supporters of the bill will continue to stand firm in demanding the federal government keep a 70-year-old promise made to miners and their families.
“Well, it makes you feel good to know that we have enough backbone about us that we can fight this thing to the end,” Anne Baxter said
Republican Ohio Senator Rob Portman spoke in support of the measure. Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown also voted in favor of the measure.