Springfield State Journal-Register

May 22, 2002

Fitzgerald, Durbin split on aid for retired workers 


WASHINGTON - Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Peter Fitzgerald split on whether the government should provide temporary
health benefits to retired steel workers as the Senate rejected aid for the retirees Tuesday.

Fitzgerald, a Republican, voted against the plan. Durbin, a Democrat, voted for it.

The proposal would have provided a temporary replacement to company-paid health insurance for retirees who worked for
struggling steel companies that have gone out of business. It would have paid for 70 percent of the cost of health insurance for one
year for retired workers who lost their retirement benefits. The estimated cost: $177 million.

Across the nation, 125,000 retired steel workers and dependents have lost their company-paid health benefits, including more than
80,000 who worked for LTV Steel before it closed, backers of the bill said.

About three-fourths of the retired workers are 65 or older and have Medicare, the federal health insurance for older Americans.
They use the company benefits to pay for prescriptions and other expenses not covered by Medicare.

"Ultimately we will win this fight," said Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle, D-S.D., among the many Democrats who
supported the bill. "Ultimately those steel workers will get help. This is just the beginning, not the end."

The effort failed even though it appeared that a majority of the Senate supported it. The Senate voted 56-40 to end a
Republican-led filibuster designed to prevent a vote. The tally fell four votes short of the 60 needed to cut off debate and force a
vote on the plan.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., introduced the plan as an amendment to a trade bill being debated in the Senate.

Fitzgerald felt the plan was unfair "because it favored one group of retirees at the expense of all other American workers," his
spokesman Brian Stoller said. The plan also would have "for the first time expanded trade adjustment assistance to retirees rather
than workers who need training to re-enter the work force," Stoller said.