Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Not Too Late to Protect Our Miners ; Miners Protection Act Will Serve Those

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Not Too Late to Protect Our Miners ; Miners Protection Act Will Serve Those

Article excerpt

With another deadline fast approaching, Tuesday, I re-introduced the Miners Protection Act. Since the continuing resolution passed in December with only a four-month fix for miners health care, I have been working to find solutions from all angles.

For the next four months, the Miners Protection Act will be my No. 1 priority. So much so that in my conversations with President- elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence I have brought up the importance of a long-term solution to retired miners and their widows health care.

They assured me that they will help fight to secure a permanent health care solution for our retired miners, as guaranteed in the proposed Miners Protection Act. They are committed to working with me to get this done, which is a refreshing change in Washington.

I have also discussed mapping out a clear path forward with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and he promised me he is ready to work toward a long-term solution and is committed to doing so before the April deadline.

This past December, I could not in good conscience vote for the continuing resolution to keep the government funded because it only included the four-month fix for the miners health care.

This means that 22,800 retired miners and their widows will be notified again in February that they are going to lose their health care benefits in April. While the temporary funding prevented miners from losing their health care on Dec. 31, it just punted this issue to April, leaving our miners with months of uncertainty.

Since introducing this bipartisan bill in July 2015, I have gone through regular order. The bill was passed out of the Senate Finance Committee with an 18 to 8 vote and has broad bipartisan support.

For these reasons, it was unacceptable that the Senate could not pass the full Miners Protection Act last year. For two years, we have known that this deadline was approaching.

In the end, Congress failed to rise to the occasion, and they instead took the miners existing money to buy four additional months for one group and shorten the deadline by three months for another group. …

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