Moscow Mitch McConnell loathes his new sobriquet, possibly because it's the one nickname that he's truly earned, that hits the closest to the truth. Every week there's a new revelation about something he's done to further Russian interests over the nation's, or even his own constituents'. Like this story from the Daily Beast detailing how this year McConnell has steered Treasury funds to that infamous Kremlin-connected aluminum mill being built in Kentucky while blocking Treasury funds from health care and pensions for coal miners there.
Before the August recess, McConnell blocked a measure sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, to use fees the Treasury Department has collected from coal companies to secure coal miners' pensions and health care plans. These are fees collected to mitigate the environmental and social damage mining has created in communities. Manchin wanted the excess funds in the pot to go the coal miners’ health and financial security. McConnell blocked his amendment, saying he wanted a more permanent fix instead. In a statement after McConnell killed his plan, Manchin said, "There are amendments that benefit Americans and West Virginians that are being blocked by one person: Mitch McConnell. […] He is the sole person that is blocking a vote on my amendment to … secure coal miners' health care and pensions, even though it has bipartisan support and would better the lives of every West Virginian, Kentuckian and American." When Joe Manchin is calling McConnell out by name, you know things have gotten extreme.
In part that's because it's much worse than just this one amendment that he blocked. McConnell has paved the way for $4 million in very similar Treasury money to build that Russian-backed aluminum plant in Kentucky. That money was part of a $90 million allocation to the Department of the Interior "to help three Appalachian states cope with the impact of a declining coal industry." Pensions and health care for miners would qualify as something that kind of money should go to. Helping Russian oligarchs, not so much.
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McConnell cleared the way for the $4 million payout to the Kentucky company, Braidy Industries, that has partnered with Russian company Rusal to build the plant. "It is not clear when talks between Braidy Industries and Rusal began, but two sources with direct knowledge of the $4 million payout said McConnell went to bat for the applicants during the internal review process and was instrumental in helping them secure the federal funding," the Daily Beast reports. Two firms that have a contract with Braidy, EastPark Industrial and Ashland Alliance, applied for the money in November 2017, saying it would pay for "general sewer and road repair on 204 acres of land" and "infrastructure improvements." The money was awarded last October, and in March of this year the companies "confirmed that the $4 million would not go to funding general repairs but would instead go prepping for construction on the aluminum plant." The aluminum plant that even the Kremlin seems to have its tentacles on.
The coal miners of Kentucky are well aware of at least part of the story—that McConnell blocked funds they desperately need. And all of McConnell's behind-closed-doors promises that he'll take care of them are wearing thin. In a recent speech, Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, made that clear. "Coal miners understand something—when people tell us 'we're going to pass legislation' […] we don't believe it. […] Anyone who understands how Congress works knows that that's a fight." It's a fight they go into with some trepidation, because he's a bully. "Several miners who spoke to The Daily Beast said they felt McConnell had blocked the funding for pensions because some of the union members had decided to support his 2014 election opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes."
Their reluctance to take him head-on might fade when it sinks in that he chose to engineer funding to pave the way for Russia to be embedded in the state at the same time as he was blocking a boost to their pension funds.