UPDATE 12/10/2016 - President Obama's White House on Thursday urged congressional Republicans to provide a long-term funding fix for the troubled health care and pension plans that serve tens of thousands of the nation's retired coal miners in West Virginia.

Calling it "quite cynical" that leading lawmakers would so far agree only to four months of help for a crisis faced by a constituency they played to heavily during the just-completed election campaign.

Republican leader Mitch McConnell appears to be blaming Democrats, virtually all of who are in favor.

West Virginia's voted 70% for Republican Donald Trump under the campaign against "Obama's War on Coal," with promises to return the industry to its former self.

Most energy experts agree that WVs coal has seen its day, declining for more than 40 years, now facing natural gas as a primary energy source.

"Democrats are ready to solve this problem, and it's not lost on me, the irony, that Republicans are bragging about the kind of support they have from workers in coal country, particular retirees in coal country, and now are prepared to just extend their health care for [four] months," President Barack Obama's press secretary Josh Earnest.

During the past year, so far the Republican led Congress has been kicking the can down the road, now that the Presidential Election is over.


12/07/2016 - A short-term extension of health care benefits for tens of thousands of retired coal miners and their families proposed by WV congressional Republicans has been met with with lukewarm results.

Tens of thousands of WV miners and their families are losing healthcare and retirement benefits.

The United Mine Workers union and coalfield political leaders say is a looming crisis for their communities.

UMW President Cecil Roberts called the proposal, which emerged late Tuesday in a temporary federal government spending bill, a "travesty" that the union would fight "in any way we can."

The measure provides no funding for the UMW's troubled pension plan and the short-term health benefits it does provide would be paid for by taking money from an existing union benefit program that covers a different group of retirees.

Roberts said, "Further, the complete exclusion of any language to provide help for the pensions of 120,000 current and future retirees puts America's coalfield communities on a glide path to deeper economic disaster."

Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the continuing-resolution language is inadequate and unacceptable, and repeated their promise to block the Senate from passing other legislation unless a complete fix for the UMW's health care benefit and pension crisis is added to the spending measure or given a separate vote on the floor.

Manchin, in a floor speech Tuesday, said that more than 16,000 UMW retirees received letters in October warning that they would lose their health care benefits this month.

The ongoing downturn in the coal industry also has forced some major operators into bankruptcy court, where they were able to shed their pension and health care benefit liabilities.

About 89,000 miners or family members receive pensions, and another 22,000 have vested in the plan but are not yet receiving pensions, said UMW spokesman Phil Smith.

Last year, Republican leader McConnell blocked efforts to attach the bill to a spending measure.

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