Senators introduce dueling miners bills

Greg Nash
Senators are rolling out two competing bills to help guarantee healthcare for miners and their families after lawmakers were only able to agree to a short-term patch late last year.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced on Tuesday that he is filing legislation that would include a “permanent extension” for retired coal miners and their dependents.
“I made a commitment at that time to work with my colleagues on a long-term healthcare solution for these retired miners,” he said from the Senate floor. “Today, I plan to introduce legislation to protect and permanently extend those benefits.”

The benefits are currently scheduled to expire at the end of April after senators include a four-month extension in last year’s funding bill.


McConnell noted that his legislation also “calls on Congress to work with the incoming Trump Administration to repeal regulations that are harming the coal industry and to support economic development efforts in coal country.”

But a separate bill, backed by a bipartisan group of senators, would address both healthcare for miners and their families as well as a separate pension fund that is heading toward insolvency.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) reintroduced the Miners Protection Act on Tuesday.

Manchin noted he has gotten assurances from McConnell, President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence that they would work on getting a permanent solution on miners healthcare.

“Our coal miners are some of the hardest working people in America, and they have dedicated their lives to powering this nation and keeping it the strongest in the world,” he said in a statement. “We have a responsibility to protect their hard-earned pensions and health benefits.” 

Portman added that while lawmakers “made some progress on this effort last year, I was very disappointed that the full Miner’s Protection Act wasn’t included in the year-end spending bill.” 

Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) are also backing the bipartisan bill. 

The end-of-the-year spending bill did not address the pension fund, which has gotten pushback from some GOP lawmakers. 

Tags Al Franken Bernie Sanders Bill Nelson Bob Casey Claire McCaskill Dick Durbin Donald Trump Heidi Heitkamp Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin Jon Tester Mark Warner Martin Heinrich Mike Pence Mitch McConnell Patty Murray Richard Burr Rob Portman Shelley Moore Capito Sherrod Brown Tim Kaine
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