Plan For Securing Miners’ Pensions Passes House
WHEELING — A measure intended to provide a permanent solution to shoring up coal miners’ pensions passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday and is expected to get a vote in the Senate Friday.
The Bipartisan American Miners Act of 2019 was included in the final funding package to keep the federal government in operation beyond Dec. 20, when current temporary funding measure expires. The spending bill is expected to have its vote in the Senate on Friday.
The amendment pertaining to miners’ pensions amends the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to transfer funds in excess of the amounts needed to meet existing obligations under the Abandoned Mine Land fund to the 1974 Pension Plan to prevent its insolvency. It will also amend the Coal Act to include 2018 and 2019 bankruptcies in the miners’ health care fix that passed in 2017.
The overall spending bill was approved in the House by a vote of 297-120, with Reps. David B. McKinley, Alex Mooney and Carol Miller, all R-West Virginia, voting in favor. Also voting yes was Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio.
The bill was championed by West Virginia’s congressional delegation, also including Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Shelley Capito, R-West Virginia.
It will secure the pensions of 92,000 coal miners and protect health care benefits for 15,000 miners, according to information provided by the offices of both Capito and Manchin.
“For years, we’ve been leading the fight to protect the pensions and health care benefits earned by retired miners, and by the end of this week, we can finally say our government is keeping its promise,” McKinley said. “This agreement will provide peace of mind to the 100,000 retirees, widows, and families who depend on the UMWA pension fund. After years of bipartisan effort that I have been proud to lead in the House, we can see the end of the tunnel.
“Over the years, we have worked to keep this issue front and center. So much hard work has gone into getting this legislation to this point, and the retired miners and their families, who made their voices heard in Congress, deserve a lot of the credit. This has been a team effort. We are thankful for Sen. Capito and Sen. Manchin’s leadership to make this bill a priority in the Senate. I look forward to this agreement passing the Senate later this week, and being signed into law.”
Capito expressed confidence in what was achieved in the bill.
“For the thousands of West Virginia miners depending on these pensions and health care plans, this bipartisan fix is the answer,” Capito said. “This is a permanent remedy for the pension and health care dilemma miners across Appalachia have unfairly had to face. I’ve been working in the Senate with Leader McConnell and Senator Manchin on this issue for years, and I’m so glad to see us come to this solution today. Our miners worked for these pensions, and I’m proud to be able to deliver what they’ve earned.”
Manchin also praised the work of the delegation.
“Today we came to an agreement that will finally secure pensions and health care for our coal miners and their families,” he said. “We have honored the promise this country made to them back in 1946. This would not have happened without the UMWA (United Mine Workers of America) and the thousands of coal miners who invested their time and energy — year after year — coming to Washington, walking the halls, and fighting for their brothers and sisters.
“It has been the honor of my life to lead this fight and bring together the coalition that made this possible. I want to thank my colleagues in Congress — Democrats and Republicans –for making this a truly bipartisan effort. I look forward to voting for this crucial bill later this week and sending it to the President so he can sign it into law and provide some well-deserved peace of mind to these great Americans that have done everything this country has asked of them.”