Profitable coal companies may get a bailout in the government spending bill that lawmakers are trying to pass next week, and it could place Congress at the brink of a shutdown.
Under a new measure being floated in the House, companies like Consol Energy would be able to shift their obligations to cover the health care costs of retired coal miners on to the federal government, which already pays for other retirees' coverage.
The measure, pushed by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), could jeopardize efforts to finalize a separate provision that
"Consol is probably one of the premier coal companies we've ever had in West Virginia and I'm very appreciative of all they've done, all the good jobs they've provided," Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told HuffPost on Thursday. "But this bill, the way it's been configured, the way it's been worked, is not a place for that right now because they still have a viable company, an ongoing company."
Manchin said the current measure to permanently fix health benefits for United Mine Workers and their widows is "truly a bill that protects orphans."
"These are people who were left behind, their companies went bankrupt, they left the system," he said. "There's no way to get any type of payment."
But if Murphy's language is attached to the current
"To do that at this time would not be advised at all," Manchin said. "I think the Senate is pretty much resolved in where we are and I think that's been transmitted to the House pretty clearly."
At the heart of the dispute is a promise the government made 70 years ago to protect the health care of United Mine Workers. Under the 1992 Coal Act, the government agreed to cover the cost of health care for United Mine Worker retirees and their widows. But the language only covers miners who retired before the fall of