As Christmas nears, there is reason for good cheer — especially for more than 100,000 miners whose pensions were in jeopardy of ending either this year or next.
Thanks to the hard work of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in Washington have stood up and done the right thing: Written funding into a must-pass-or-close-the-government spending bill that will now guarantee those pensions remain.
The bill, which passed out of the House on Tuesday, must be signed into law by Friday to keep government funded and functioning.
Sen. Manchin, who has worked tirelessly with the United Mine Workers and across the aisle in the Senate to garner enough support, praised the miners and their families for keeping the issue on the front burner.
“This would not have happened without the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) 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,” Manchin wrote in a letter announcing the deal.
“It has been the honor of my life to lead this fight and bring together the coalition that made this possible. I also want to thank my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, for making this a truly bipartisan effort.”
Manchin also praised the bipartisan effort, something sorely lacking along the D.C. Beltway, for stemming the assault on miners’ pensions, in particular mentioning the work of Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. David McKinley.
Capito, who has been on board with protecting the pensions since day one, said she was pleased to see the bipartisan effort yield intended results.
“Protecting the health care and pension benefits for our coal miners has been one of my top priorities, and I am thrilled legislation protecting these benefits for our miners is included in the final funding package,” Capito said in a statement.
“I look forward to a strong bipartisan vote on this so we can send this to President Trump’s desk for his signature. I’m grateful to our West Virginia miners — who I’ve stood alongside throughout this entire process — for their hope, their patience, and the hard work they’ve done for decades to power our country.”
McKinley, who has always been a staunch advocate for the miners, also praised his fellow lawmakers from the Mountain State.
“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 after Tuesday’s House vote moved the bill forward.
“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,” McKinley said.
West Virginia House of Delegates Minority Whip Mike Caputo, D-Marion, who is a retired UMWA district officer, thanked the state’s lawmakers in Washington, as well as his fellow miners for finding a way to work together to find a solution.
“I am relieved and grateful that Sen. Manchin, Sen. Capito and West Virginia’s House delegation were able to secure a bipartisan agreement that protects lifetime health care benefits and pensions for thousands of coal miners in West Virginia and throughout the country,” Caputo said.
“I would also like to thank the leadership of President Cecil Roberts, Secretary-Treasurer Levi Allen and the UMWA rank-and-file-miners who have spent countless days on Capitol Hill urging our government to keep the promise of cradle-to-grave health care and pensions for coal miners and their spouses.”
We applaud this tremendous bipartisan effort to do the right thing for the miners and for the nation in general. Finding ways to help workers — the backbone of this great nation — must remain a trademark of our country.
And we would like to see this form of bipartisan effort return to being the norm, instead of a unique situation.
Sen. Manchin and Sen. Capito have long been voices of reason in the nation’s Capital. Rep. McKinley has also shown flashes of true statesmanship during his time in the House.
We can only hope the rest of Washington is watching and can see the benefit when multiple sides sit down, listen to each other and then work — together — to find a solution.
The Bipartisan Miners Act will be long remembered for saving hundreds of thousands of miners’ benefits for their lifetime of work.
It would be great, too, if it is looked back upon as the law that led our leaders back to the standard of respectful bipartisanship that has moved this country forward since 1776.