WASHINGTON—I mentioned on Tuesday that the first people I met on this trip were a group of retired coal miners—or, as the president* endlessly puts it, Our Great, Great Coal Miners—who had come to town to plead with their elected representatives for more funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund to fight the disease that had put at least a few of them in wheelchairs there outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building. From the Lexington Herald-Leader:
About 12,000 former miners nationwide rely on the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund to cover costs and make ends meet, but a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office showed that the fund is $4.3 billion in debt, and a tax on coal which funded the trust fund was cut in half in January. Many advocates for the fund worry it may soon become insolvent. There is no cure for black lung disease, which is caused by the inhalation of dust particles in mines leading to severe lung damage. Cases of the deadly disease have surged in recent years in Eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia.
That tax cut, of course, was pushed through by Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, Majority Leader of the United States Senate. There are more than a few coal miners in Kentucky. So the folks I met on the street thought they'd drop by to see what he could do. What happened next was fairly vile.
The Kentucky Republican, who the miners and their advocates see as key to passing any sort of Congressional assistance, told the group of miners in a brief statement “that they were going to be taken care of,” said Kenny Fleming, a former Pike County miner who suffers from black lung. “We just have to take him at his word and then we also have to keep him at his word, which I think that’s what we’re after,” Fleming said. “Hopefully he will come through.” Fleming said McConnell was “kind of vague” and didn’t provide much detail on how the miners would be assisted. Jimmy Moore, the head of the Letcher County Black Lung Association, said he found McConnell’s conduct “rude.” After the meeting, he said McConnell wouldn’t do anything to reinstate the tax which funded the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.
What a withered, tiny man it is, shining on the sick and dying. The miners' big mistake was in not coming to McConnell with fat checks in their pockets, instead of oxygen tanks by their sides. Don't they know how democracy works? When you're all done coughing, get with the program, people.
Of course, on Wednesday, before god, the world, and every cable network in the known universe, Robert Mueller testified before two committees of the House of Representatives. In his afternoon session with the House Intelligence Committee, Mueller sounded the alarm about foreign ratfcking of American elections—both the foreign ratfcking of the 2016 elections, and the ongoing ratfcking that is out there, ratfcking the 2020 election already. The Republican members of both committees demonstrated that they are perfectly fine with the situation. Not long after Mueller was finished, at the behest of Mitch McConnell, the Republicans in the Senate demonstrated that they're perfectly content with foreign ratfcking, too. From The Hill:
Democrats tried to get consent to pass two bills that would require campaigns to alert the FBI and Federal Election Commission about foreign offers of assistance, as well as a bill to let the Senate Sergeant at Arms offer voluntary cyber assistance for personal devices and accounts of senators and staff. But Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) blocked each of the bills. She didn't give reason for her objections, or say if she was objecting on behalf of herself or the Senate GOP caucus. A spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ms. Hyde-Smith, last seen doing a little Confederate cosplay, isn't bright enough to order breakfast by herself, so there's little question that she stepped in here to do McConnell's bidding any more than there's a question that McConnell was doing the White House's bidding.
But election interference bills face an uphill climb in the Senate, where Republicans aren't expected to move legislation through the Rules Committee, the panel with primary jurisdiction, and have warned about attempts to "federalize" elections. Democrats cited Mueller as they tried to get consent on Wednesday evening to pass their bills. "Mr. Mueller's testimony should serve as a warning to every member of this body about what could happen in 2020, literally in our next elections," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He added that "unfortunately, in the nearly three years since we uncovered Russia's attack on our democracy, this body has not held a single vote on stand-alone legislation to protect our elections."
Quite simply, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, Majority Leader of the United States Senate, doesn't give a damn about the future of America, and very little of a damn about the majority of Americans, even the Americans coughing up their lungs in his own state. On Thursday, in his opening remarks, McConnell talked about how the new budget deal is beefing up American military might. This is what he said:
So, Madam President, every member of this body knows the threats we face are serious and getting more serious. The resurgence of great power competition with nations like Russia and China, the destabilization influence of state-sponsored terror and regional aggression from bad actors such as Iran, and the testing of historic a lines—alliances. Amidst the growing international chaos, the pre-eminent addition of the U.S. government is to provide for the common defense.
He didn't immediately burst into flames. There is no god.
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