WASHINGTON, D.C. — West Virginia Third District Congressman Evan Jenkins says now is not the time to point fingers when it comes to coming up with a permanent fix for health care and pensions for retired miners and widows of miners.
Facing a Friday deadline, it’s been reported that House Speaker Paul Ryan is leaning toward a 20-month extension of current funding. Jenkins said Tuesday during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline” he’s spoken with Ryan and urged him to get on board with a permanent fix but Jenkins also said it’s not right for Democrats to criticize Ryan.
“Candidly, I want to avoid the finger-pointing that maybe Senator (Joe) Manchin is suggesting,” Jenkins said. “Let’s not forget that from 2008 to 2014 the Democrats were in control of the United States Senate. What did they do? How did they lead in terms of looking for a solution to this problem?”
Manchin said last week on “Talkline” the Senate was going to pass a fix but the problem was in the House.
“I’m urging all of our Congress representatives to push back, stop, shove, don’t leave town, don’t let (House Speaker) Paul Ryan leave town until they fix it this time,” Manchin said.
Jenkins said the problem has been on the front-burner for many years.
“Nothing was done. We’re now at a crisis…we should get the job done,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins is considering a run against Manchin next year. He said Tuesday on “Talkline” no final decision has been made.
The shutdown of the federal government is looming if Congress doesn’t pass a budget or a continuing resolution. Jenkins said it’s important to have the health benefits aspect of the miners’ issue in that piece of legislation while at the same time passing the Miner’s Protection Act that would guarantee funding for health care and pensions in the years ahead.
It looks like there won’t be funding in the spending plan for a border wall. The Trump administration has said that can be dealt with later this year. Jenkins, who supports a wall, said Tuesday there are already efforts underway to secure the border.
“There’s a range of things we can do to support the border, one of which is the wall. I support a wall but we’re working certainly in the right direction for more secure borders,” Jenkins said.
The bankruptcies of dozens of coal companies in recent years has severely drained the fund that has paid for the health care and pensions over the years. The Miner’s Protection Act would set up a new funding source from the Abandoned Mine Land Fund.