Mitch McConnell said he'd talk to the coal miners, but he was only interested in a photo-op.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell posed for photos Tuesday with a coalition of coal workers and their families seeking help dealing with black lung disease. But McConnell left the room before they could talk to him.
"McConnell arrived briefly for a photo op, but left before miners & widows could speak to him," the Appalachian Citizens' Law Center noted.
"Apparently the senator visited briefly and then left," according to reporter Sydney Boles, who traveled with the miners.
The miners instead had to speak to McConnell's staffers, even though McConnell's office had said he was concerned about the issue and had agreed to speak with the miners.
Barry Johnson, one of the miners traveling to D.C. to talk to McConnell, said he knew exactly what he wanted to tell the senator.
"You have a duty and an obligation," Johnson had planned to say. "Do what’s right."
McConnell's snub was slammed by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, a grassroots social justice organization.
"Unfortunately a photo op doesn't help these miners or their loved ones, @senatemajldr. You could ask Congress TODAY to reinstate the excise tax that supports the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund," they wrote.
The miners did meet and speak with Democratic senators Bob Casey, Tim Kaine, Joe Manchin, and Sherrod Brown, who held a round table discussion calling on Congress to pass the legislation.
The group traveled from McConnell's home state of Kentucky, along with others from Virginia and Pennsylvania to ask for a reinstatement of the taxes on coal companies that fund the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.
The fund is over $4 billion in debt, yet the tax was cut 50% at the end of last year when Republicans still had complete control over Congress. The cut occurred as fallout from Trump's shutdown of the government, and McConnell has refused to act to get the legislation passed.
"McConnell has failed coal miners time after time, and now he’s making them go to DC to ask for help," said Amy McGrath, a Democratic candidate running to unseat McConnell in 2020. "He is jeopardizing funding for folks with black lung disease. Kentuckians know this is not the way to treat miners who have worked so hard."
The Trump administration has resisted attempts to increase safety regulations to safeguard miners, despite an epidemic of black lung disease among that group.
"Last year, NPR and the PBS program Frontline reported that records from Zatezalo's own agency showed that miners were exposed to dangerous levels of silica thousands of times in the last 30 years," NPR noted.
Despite this information and the men and women who came to see him to press him to act, McConnell didn't even speak to them. He just posed for a photo.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.