Manchin leads Democratic colleagues in pushing pension bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A group of Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday pushed for the U.S. Senate to consider legislation that would permanently fund coal miners’ pensions and ensure miners and their families would have access to health benefits.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., led Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania in speaking about the American Miners Act, which they called on Congress to support.

“We still have 87,000 miners that are going to lose their pension by no later than 2022 if we don’t do something,” Manchin said. “This adds another 1,200 who are going to lose their health care by the end of the year, so the crunch time is here.”

The bill would require the Treasury Department to transfer funds to the 1974 United Mine Workers of America Pension plan, as well as increase the limit on transfers from $490 million to $750 million. The legislation additionally extends health care access to coal miners affected by bankruptcies during 2018; Westmoreland and Misson Coal could drop benefits for 1,200 workers by the end of the year if nothing is done.

Manchin said most of the pension recipients are widows.

“You know what the average pension is? Less than $600 a month,” he said.

Kaine stressed if the legislation is not passed, it would put pressure on the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation.

“We’re not here coming here just asking without paying for it,” he said. “We have a solution on the table where we can pay for it.”

According to the senators, 20,000 additional coal miners who have not begun drawing their pensions would also be impacted by the legislation.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Rep. David McKinley introduced similar legislation earlier this year, as did Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia.

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