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UMW health-care benefits secured in budget deal

From staff, wire reports

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A permanent fix to fund the health-care benefits for more than 22,000 retired coal miners is included in a $1 trillion budget deal made public by Congressional leaders early this morning.

The language sought by the United Mine Workers union is a three-page section that starts on page 1,660 of a 1,665-page bill that would fund government operations through for the rest of the budget year, which runs through the end of September.

Lawmakers unveiled the legislative language early this morning, with a bill that would deny President Donald Trump money for a border wall and rejects his proposed cuts to popular domestic programs.

The catchall spending bill would be the first major piece of bipartisan legislation to advance during Trump’s short tenure in the White House. While losing on funding for the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump won a $15 billion down payment on his request to strengthen the military, though that too fell short of what he requested.

The measure funds the remainder of the 2017 budget year, through Sept. 30, rejecting cuts to popular domestic programs targeted by Trump such as medical research and infrastructure grants.

Successful votes later this week would also clear away any remaining threat of a government shutdown — at least until the Oct. 1 start of the 2018 budget year. Trump has submitted a partial 2018 budget promising a whopping $54 billion, 10 percent increase for the Pentagon from current levels, financed by cutting to foreign aid and other nondefense programs by an equal amount. Negotiators on the pending measure, however, rejected a smaller $18 billion package of cuts and instead slightly increased funding for domestic programs.

More than 22,000 UMW retirees and family members have faced having their health-care benefits cut off following a series of mining company bankruptcies amid the coal industry’s historic downturn.

The budget deal needs approval with votes in both the Senate and House, but is almost certain to receive that approval.

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