Tag Archives: senate

Convicted Ex-Coal Boss Runs for Senate

Don Blankenship, who was CEO of Massey Energy Co. during the 2010 disaster at its Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 miners, is running for Senate in West Virginia.

Following an extensive government investigation, Blankenship was convicted of conspiracy to violate federal mine safety laws and served a year in prison in California. He unsuccessfully appealed the conviction all the way to the Supreme Court. Blankenship is currently under federal supervision as a condition of his conviction and is prohibited from leaving the state of Nevada until May 2018.

Blankenship will face West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Representative Evan Jenkins in the Republican primary. If he successfully wins the GOP nomination, he will face incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin, who was governor at the time of the disaster and was a leading figure denouncing Blankenship.

Senate Health Care Debate Timeline

As a follow-up to my August 2017 IM column on health care, this details recent actions on Capitol Hill. The House completed its work and passed a repeal and replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health care bill. The 2017 House American Health Care Act (AHC) was then forwarded to the US Senate for consideration. Upon receipt, the Senate determined that it needed to compile its own proposal. Hence, Senate majority members went into closed session to draft a new proposal.

The Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA) was introduced as the vehicle used by Senate leadership to start the repeal and replace process. The following timeline provides a sense of Senate action, along with a glimpse at the procedural difficulty encountered after the seven-year attempt to totally eliminate the ACA. Though this process goes back seven years, we begin in 2017 with the 115th Congress, where a single party controls the House, Senate, and White House.

Health Care Timeline

May 4: House passes its version of health care reform, the American Health Care Act of 2017.

May 24: Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports House bill (American Health Care Act) increases federal deficit by $119 billion; over 10 years 23 million would lose health care.

June 13: President Donald Trump weighs in with Senators at a White House lunch to “make the [House] bill more generous.”

June 22: Senate releases its Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.

June 26: CBO reviews draft Senate bill.

June 27: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delays vote; not enough votes for his Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA).

July 13: Republicans present updated version; moderates say new version will hurt those with pre-existing conditions.

July 15: Procedural vote delayed because of Senator McCain’s surgery.

July 17: Senators Mike Lee and Jerry Moran kill the bill by announcing they would vote against it.

July 25: Senator John McCain votes for a motion to proceed.

July 25: Senator Ted Cruz introduces a health care bill amendment to allow insurers to sell low cost health
insurance; bill is rejected by the Senate.

July 27: McConnell announces plans for his Health Care Freedom Act, or as his colleagues call it, “skinny repeal” bill; will not replace the ACA for two years or have a two-year transition period. It is supported by the White House, but Senators oppose the tactic.

July 28: ACA repeal vote takes place, defeated by all Democrats, and Republicans John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins; bill would leave 16 million more people uninsured than ACA. After the vote, Trump continues to push for a health care resolution, while McConnell insists on moving on to tax reform and the debt ceiling.

July 28: House on August recess while Senate remains in pro forma session with no changes to the Affordable Care Act. (The pro forma session prevents President Trump from making recess appointments.)

For AFM members subject to requirements outlined under ACA, you should know that no additional work on health care has been scheduled. We expect more information after the August recess.

AFL-CIO President’s Message to Senate Republicans: Do Your Job

As President Obama prepares to nominate a new Supreme Court justice to fill the vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing, Republicans have vowed to block the nomination—even though they are constitutionally obligated to vote on the President’s appointment.

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka urges members to sign an online petition holding Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republican leadership accountable to the people and allowing hearings to take place. Trumka says, “Senate Republicans are already planning obstruction. They say they will ignore the president’s nomination. Refuse to act on it.” In doing so, he says, the GOP is shirking their responsibilities. “This is an absolutely shameful, un-American position. And we cannot stand for it. I have one message for Senate Republicans: ‘Do your job.’ That’s what the American people who hired you expect you to do.”