Trump, Manchin and retired miners
Here's another fact-challenged tweet from President Trump on Thursday:
I want to help our miners while the Democrats are blocking their healthcare.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 27, 2017
As fact checker Politifact explained later that day:
Trump’s tweet that "Democrats are blocking their healthcare" is disingenuous. The senator leading the effort to make funding for the health insurance program permanent is a Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia. The bill Manchin has proposed has 18 Democratic cosponsors, and seven Republicans are also on board.
How did Democrats react? CNN explained:
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin "must have fallen out of bed" Thursday morning after seeing tweets from President Donald Trump accusing Democrats of trying to block health benefits for coal miners.
"Tell Chuck I was already up," Manchin quipped to reporters, responding to the comment. "I might have cut myself while I was shaving, but I was already up."
Manchin, perhaps not wanting to lose favor with the president, rationalized Trump's blaming Democrats:
Manchin, though he said he "can't explain" the tweet, said he believes that Trump supports the miners and brushed off the comment. "Sometimes tweets are just tweets."
Who then is opposed to helping the retired miners? Despite promises to coal miners from the government dating almost 70 years, some conservatives ignore the promise and argue that other workers will follow:
“If you open the door here to the United Mine Workers, then you have 1,300 other plans waiting there to say, ‘Where's my bailout? Why is it fair that you preserved 100 percent of coal miners’ benefits?’” argues Rachel Greszler, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
Anti-union sentiment would appear to be another reason for opposition and it was the reason Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was originally against a bailout. Here, Fox News appears to be trying a variation on this approach: blame the UMWA for misuse of the funds (even if the report it cites doesn't say that). On Friday, it published on its website:
Coal miners' health care bailouts riddled with dubious expenses, audit says
The audit was conducted by the Inspector General’s office of the U.S. Department of the Interior and it points to a possibility for abuse. While I did not read the entire report, the summary suggested that because of a lack of government oversight, the possibility for abuse by the mineworkers union is there. Regardless, the audit didn't indict the funding or the union, it was simply arguing that the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement needed to do a better job with its oversight and transparency.
The Fox News' headline is deceptive -- the bailouts are not "riddled with dubious expenses." (For example, neither the word "riddled" or "dubious" is found anywhere in the report; both are Fox News' descriptors.) And if it were true that the auditor's report pointed to widespread abuse by the UMWA, I'm sure that all sorts of news services would have highlighted the Inspector General's report and yet I could not find any report from any other news source (including far right news sources) that made that claim. This is Fox News laying the groundwork for rejection by providing an excuse to reject -- the union is misusing the funds.
Finally, Mark Sumner at Daily Kos explains how the Republicans may play all of this into a "gift to coal mining companies" in which Democrats end up looking like the bad guys.