U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) is saying “not so fast,” when it comes to the cloture motion on the 21st Century Cures Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and sent to the U.S. Senate. Portman, who is a supporter of the Cures Act, took the opportunity to explain that he opposed cloture because of the lack of amendments and a full Senate vote on the Miner’s Protection Act.
“I appreciate all of the work that has gone into the bipartisan CURES legislation,” Portman said. “It’s a good bill that advances positive reforms to help speed the delivery of life-saving medical cures. It includes a significant boost in opioid funding that I strongly support. And I plan to support the bill on final passage. But the Senate should be allowed the opportunity to improve the bill, and that’s why I voted no on cloture today.”
According to the Energy and Commerce Committee, in the 21st century, health care innovation is happening at lightning speed. “From the mapping of the human genome to the rise of personalized medicines that are linked to advances in molecular medicine, we have seen constant breakthroughs that are changing the face of disease treatment, management, and cures. Health research is moving quickly, but the federal drug and device approval apparatus is in many ways the relic of another era. We have dedicated scientists and bold leaders at agencies like the NIH and the FDA, but when our laws don’t keep pace with innovation, we all lose,” the E&C website said.
Portman has been a staunch supporter of the Miner’s Protection Act, and wants the opportunity to put that amendment into the final bill before it is passed.
The Miner’s Protection Act bill amends the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to address potential shortages in the Multiemployer Health Benefit Plan for payment of health care benefits to retired coal miners by expanding the eligible uses of interest transferable to such plan from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund, and supplemental payments from the General Fund of the Treasury. The calculation of such interest and payments shall be made by taking into account only those beneficiaries who are actually enrolled in the plan as of the enactment of this Act, as well as those retirees whose health care benefits, payable directly by an employer in the bituminous coal industry under a coal wage agreement, would be denied or reduced as a result of a bankruptcy proceeding commenced in 2012.
The bill requires the Department of the Treasury to transfer to the trustees of the 1974 United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Pension Plan additional funds to pay pension benefits required under that plan, if the $490 million cap on certain transfers to the UMWA Combined Benefit Fund and distributions to states and Indian tribes exceed the aggregate amount required to be transferred to them.
“The pension and health benefits of thousands of retired coal miners in Ohio remain in jeopardy, and the Senate must act,” Portman said. “The Senate Finance Committee approved the Miner’s Protection Act on a bipartisan basis in September. With time running out this Congress, I believe we should have an opportunity to add the bipartisan Miner’s Protection Act to one of those bills. We should keep our promises to our coal miners and that’s why I joined Senators Manchin, Capito, Brown and others in voting no on cloture today.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.