WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a speech on the Senate floor tonight, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) called for immediate passage of the Miner’s Protection Act, a bill to prevent any lapse in important benefits for retired miners.
Prior to the speech, Senator Capito voted against cloture on 21st Century Cures because once it advances there would be no opportunity to amend the Cures bill to address miners’ benefits.
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Mister/Madame President, I rise today to talk about an issue of great urgency: the fate of tens of thousands American workers.
In just a matter of weeks, 16,000 coal miners and their dependents will lose their health care. Roughly 6,000 others are set to join them in 2017.
Here we are, just days away from Congress wrapping up its work for the year. That should and must motivate action. I’ve served in Congress long enough to know that deadlines often force action, and this time should be no different. Here’s why:
Without some resolution before Congress adjourns, the men and women who have powered our nation and spurred economic growth for generations will have the carpet pulled out from under them.
They will lose the health benefits they so rely on.
It’s important to recognize the risks our coal miners have taken to better our lives.
When you visit a coal mine, you see the rigorous, often dangerous conditions, where these men and women do their jobs to provide the energy we need to live our lives.
They are the pillars of their communities, and many are veterans who have fought for this nation. For decades, they’ve worked hard and played by the rules.
Yet, the realities facing these men and women are stark. They are up against a wall, and the challenges they face will only grow if we fail to take immediate action.
We can talk about the realities of the war on coal, but this is about more than that. This is about the families in my state and others who are in need. This is about the thousands of coal jobs that have been lost, forcing miners to rely on these modest benefits more than ever before. This is about the employers that are going bankrupt and leaving benefit plans underfunded.
We have a solution right in front of us, that’s ready for a vote to prevent any lapse in benefits. It’s a solution that has support from both sides of the aisle. And, it’s a solution that could mean the difference in the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Americans.
I had hoped that we could offer the Miners Protection Act as an amendment to the 21st Century Cures bill. And that’s why, despite its many benefits to address the opioid epidemic, cancer and advance medicine, I had to oppose our moving forward on the Cures bill tonight without an amendment process. That’s how important this issue is to our miners.
Before Friday, we will move forward on a bill to fund the government. We must take action in that bill – the continuing resolution – to protect important benefits for our miners. If we don’t, we will be failing to act on behalf of thousands of American workers.
Thank you, and I yield the floor.