A senator with over a million in campaign contributions from the coal mining industry had little time for coal miners who came to DC to talk about funding for victims of black lung disease.
“A group of coal miners afflicted with black lung disease met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday as part of an effort to convince lawmakers to restore a higher excise tax on coal companies to help fund their medical care, but several said the meeting left them discouraged.
McConnell, the Republican leader who represents Kentucky – one of the states that has seen a rebound in the progressive respiratory illness – told them their benefits would be safe but gave no assurances about the excise tax and left without answering questions or offering details, several of the miners who attended the meeting said.
“We rode up here for 10 hours by bus to get some answers from him because he represents our state,” said George Massey, a miner from Harlan County, Kentucky who spent two decades in the mines and is on disability. ‘For him to come in for just two minutes was a low-down shame.’
David Mullins, who worked in coal mines for 34 years and is currently battling an advanced stage of black lung disease, said he was also frustrated. “It’s time to act,” he said, while wearing a ‘Black Lung Kills’ T-shirt and using an oxygen tank.
Coal companies had been required to pay a $1.10 per ton tax on underground coal to finance the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which supports disabled miners whose employers go bankrupt and can no longer pay out medical benefits. But the amount reverted to the 1977 level of 55 cents this year after Congress declined to take action to maintain the rate.
The coal industry had lobbied hard to allow the tax to drop as scheduled, despite a government report saying the fund was in dire financial straits, arguing the companies were already facing economic pain and that benefits for afflicted miners would not be affected.”
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