Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) released a statement on the Senate’s vote on the Continuing Resolution, which did not include an adequate fix for the health care and pensions of Pennsylvania coal miners and their families:
“By failing to pass into law an adequate solution for coal miners and their families who stand to lose their health care and pensions in the new year, Congressional Republican leadership has turned its back on coal miners and their families in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation. For well over a year, I have worked in a bipartisan way to build substantial support for the Miners Protection Act, which ensures that the federal government keeps the promise of pensions and health care that it made to coal miners and their families in 1947. The legislation cleared the Senate Finance Committee 18-8 and is fully paid for, yet Congressional Republican leaders have put rigid ideology ahead of health care and pensions for 89,000 beneficiaries throughout the nation and 12,951 in Pennsylvania.
The four month “fix” dropped into Congress’ year-end bill is an insult to every coal miner and every family member whose loved ones descended into the depths and darkness of our nation’s coal mines. It is so short a time that recipients would be notified almost simultaneously that they are both eligible for benefits and that their benefits will terminate. These are people who have risked their lives over and over again for our nation- from working in the mines to serving abroad in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Our government told them that if they did their job then we would do ours and ensure the promise of pensions and health care was kept for them and their families. Coal miners kept their promises to their families, their country and their employers. It is time for Washington to keep its promise to miners and their families. The people in Pennsylvania whose lives actually depend on this bill are in many cases living lives of struggle and sacrifice. Some of them wrote to me about what this bill means to them. One couple from Johnstown in Cambria County wrote, “We are in our late 70s and desperately need our pension and hospitalization. We will not be able to make ends meet without them.” A man from Greene County wrote to me saying:
“My Mother is a widow. My father passed away three years ago. She now lives on a fixed income. Her life depends on this passing. She has cancer and will need surgery. I am taking her to see a doctor on November 29 to talk about the surgery. If she loses Her health care before the surgery she will not be able to pay for it. Once the health care is stopped they will try to stop the pension as well. That would be absolutely devastating for Her. She can not get a job because she is disabled and now has cancer.”
These Pennsylvanians don’t need some half-baked political solution; they need the certainty of quality health care and a secure pension now. Congressional Republican leadership has chosen to leave Washington, D.C. while a widow in Greene County will spend the holidays worried about whether she will have the health care and the pension that the government promised her and her husband many years ago. We have an abiding obligation to her and thousands like her, but House and Senate Republicans have betrayed them.
This evening, I voted against the Continuing Resolution in protest of the inadequate fix to the issue of coal miners’ health care and pensions. In the new Congress, I will not stop fighting for these miners and their families until the Miners Protection Act is enacted into law.