Senate Democrats have been fighting for years for a long-term fix a struggling union miners pension and benefits fund. More than 16,000 miners are set to lose their benefits by December 31.
Now the fund may get a 4 month extension, far less than hoped.
"We never talked about a short term extension; we’ve always talked about a permanent fix," said West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.
Manchin said he and other advocates of the bill had agreed to table talk of funding pensions in return for saving the miners’ health care benefits.
"We thought that was all agreed upon, but three days ago I hear the House will not accept the long-term fix."
Instead, a Republican-led proposal was tacked onto a must-pass continuing resolution to fund the federal government through April.
Members of the House approved the resolution Thursday and went home, leaving the Senate Democrats with two options: to agree to the provisions and pass the spending bill or threaten a government shutdown.
The funding plan will provide the benefits through April 2017 and then will have to be negotiated again.
The plan also does not include additional funding for the miners’ pension benefits that will run out of funds next year. Manchin says the Senate is asking for an extension to continue deliberations over the healthcare funds, but with the House already home for its holiday break, that extension is unlikely.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation.