It’s that time of the year when lawmakers in Columbus and Washington cram lots of last minute bills down the throats of taxpayers as they make a pell mell dash home to their gerrymandered districts.
The Ohio legislature was in lock step with Washington lawmakers in swallowing hard, in some cases, to pass bills that didn’t have public hearings but nonetheless got the votes needed in the last minute rush when the public is kept at bay from any meaningful involvement.
In Washington, a stumbling block on the road to adjournment was the cumulative decision by four coal state senators to stop the gears of government from turning if promised health care for coal miners wasn’t renewed before Congress retreated to their comfortable homes.
The U.S. Senate voted for a government spending bill that averted a government shutdown at midnight Friday. Coal-state Democrats that included Ohio’s own Sherrod Brown, beat a tactical retreat and promised to continue their fight next year for months-long health care benefits for retired miners, the AP reported.
“We had no intention of shutting down the government,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.. Sen. Schumer said Democrats would provide enough votes to pass a stopgap spending bill to keep the government operating through April 28.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., led the battle of coal-state Democrats who demanded a one-year extension for the miners rather than the shorter, four-month fix in the spending bill. Faced with Republicans unwilling to agree to the robust coverage and the departure of House lawmakers, the Democrats relented, news reports said.
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who partnered with Manchin, spoke his mind after the vote, blasting his colleagues for their willingness to bail out bankers and billionaires but balking when it comes to hard working Ohioans who spend their lives underground doing dirty and dangerous work that often cripples or kills them before their time.
“Washington has bailed out banks and billionaires, but now that coal miners and widows need healthcare, Congress is taking a vacation,” Sen. Brown said in a statement following the disappointing vote Friday. “These hard-working Americans gave their lungs and their backs to power this country. They paid for their healthcare and they were promised it would be there for them. Our refusal to keep that promise is shameful – it’s everything that’s wrong with Washington and it’s why I cannot support this bill.”
Brown and company sought to win a one-year period of relief for 16,500 miners facing the loss of health care benefits at year’s end. He had history on his side, as well. President Harry S. Truman, 70 years ago, guaranteed a lifetime of health and pension benefits for retired miners to avert a strike. The shorter four-month extension now provides benefits at a cost of $45 million. The bill passed, 63-36, with Sen. Brown voting against it.