The past week has not seen any concrete action regarding the Byrd Amendments. But like last week’s introduction of a proposed House Resolution by coalfield Republicans, this week there was another nonbinding, symbolic proposal—this time by Senate Democrats.
On Tuesday, January 10th, in anticipation of Wednesday’s “Vote-a-Rama,” Senator Manchin introduced “Senate Amendment 65” along with cosponsors Mark Warner (D-Va.), Sherrod Brown (D-De.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), & Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D.-Pa.). Senator Manchin introduced a press release on the topic.
The amendment was not voted on, and the Senate’s concurrent resolution on the budget passed late on Wednesday night making the amendment moot as a formal matter.
However, considering that the purpose of the Senate’s concurrent resolution was to pave the way for action via the budget reconciliation process, the Senate Amendment signals that at least six senators are aware of the Byrd Amendments and will likely continue to seek to protect them from being repealed via reconciliation (which only requires 51 votes, not 60 as legislation not affecting the federal budget requires).
Note: If you’re confused at this point, don’t feel alone. I’m confused too. I reached out to a member of Senator Manchin’s staff to confirm and clarify my understanding but I haven’t heard back.
That appears to be the latest though as president-elect Trump’s inauguration nears and brings with it the unknown question of what, if anything, will happen to the black lung provisions of the ACA on “Day 1” (which Trump appears to consider to be Monday, January 23rd).
Senate Amendment 65 read as follows:
SEC. 4__. POINT OF ORDER AGAINST LEGISLATION THAT WOULD REDUCE BLACK LUNG BENEFITS FOR MINERS DISABLED BY BLACK LUNG DISEASE AND THEIR SURVIVORS.
(a) Point of Order.–It shall not be in order in the Senate to consider any bill, joint resolution, motion, amendment, amendment between the Houses, or conference report that would eliminate or weaken the amendments to the Black Lung Benefits Act (30 U.S.C. 901 et seq.) made by section 1556 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111-148), which–
(1) require the presumption of total disability or death caused by pneumoconiosis for coal miners who worked for at least 15 years in underground mining and who suffer or suffered from a totally disabling respiratory impairment; and
(2) provide automatic entitlement for eligible survivors of miners who were themselves entitled to receive benefits as a result of a lifetime claim.
(b) Waiver and Appeal.–Subsection (a) may be waived or suspended in the Senate only by an affirmative vote of three-fifths of the Members, duly chosen and sworn. An affirmative vote of three-fifths of the Members of the Senate, duly chosen and sworn, shall be required to sustain an appeal of the ruling of the Chair on a point of order raised under subsection (a).