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Senators introduce bipartisan Miners Pension Protection Act

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WASHINGTON (NEWS RELEASE) – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Mark Warner (D-VA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Rob Portman (R-OH) today introduced the Miners Pension Protection Act, legislation to secure our nation’s retired miners pensions by shoring up the 1974 Pension Plan which is headed for insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis.

The Miners Pension Protection Act will amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to transfer funds in excess of the amounts needed to meet existing obligations under the Abandoned Mine Land fund to the 1974 Pension Plan to prevent its insolvency.

“Now that we have secured a permanent healthcare fix for our retired miners, it’s time to keep the second part of the promise and secure the pensions that they have earned over a lifetime of hard and dangerous work,” Senator Manchin said. “We cannot allow for this issue to be put off until the deadline only to punt it with extensions. Our retired miners deserve better than to receive letters notifying them that they will no longer receive their modest pension, which many rely on for survival. For most of these retired miners, their pension is the difference between paying the bills or being kicked out of their house, putting food on their tables or going hungry. I know my colleagues will stick by them this time just like they did with healthcare and I look forward to working with them to finally keep our promise.”

“Securing permanent health care for our miners and their families was only half the battle. The Miners Pension Protection Act is our commitment to continue the fight for these hardworking men and women,” Senator Capito said. “This legislation will help ensure they receive the pensions they’ve earned through years of hard work. So many West Virginians are still facing uncertain futures. I’m proud to stand with our miners and with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we work to deliver the peace of mind they deserve.”

“Now that Congress has finally approved a long-term solution to secure miners’ healthcare, it’s time for us to take care of unfinished business, and that is to protect the retirement benefits that our miners have rightfully earned after a lifetime spent underground. The government made a commitment to these miners many decades ago. Now, through absolutely no fault of their own, the pension benefits that thousands of retired miners and their families rely to make end meet are at risk. It’s well past time for us to hold up our end of the by approving a long-term solution for the underfunded pension plan,” Senator Warner said.

“Our work for coal miners and their families is in full force after securing the permanent healthcare fix in the most recent budget. Our retired miners have earned the pension security promised as they labored to build our great nation. I don’t plan to stop until these promises are kept and we win the fight on pensions,” Senator Casey said.

 “Ohio miners worked their lives underground to power our country and were promised that when they retired from this backbreaking work they could do so with dignity,” said Senator Brown. “They aren’t asking for a handout – they are asking for what they earned for decades of hard work. We should honor that promise to our miners and their families so they can access the full pensions they’ve earned.”

“Working folks in Missouri were made a promise that dates back to President Harry Truman—that if they worked hard and played by the rules, their decades of hard work would earn them a stable pension and retirement,” Senator McCaskill said. “I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the people who went to work in mines that powered our country for generations simply get the benefits they were promised. If the leaders in Congress can find ways to get things done for the rich and powerful, I’m fighting make sure this gets done for Missourians and workers and their families across the country.”

 “We must protect the hard-earned pensions of our nation’s coal miners,” said Senator Portman. “While we made some progress by securing a permanent healthcare fix, we must continue to fight for their pensions – income they worked hard to secure that is at risk due to no fault of their own. I will keep fighting for our coal miners until this bipartisan legislation is signed into law.”

On May 4, 2017, the Senate passed a portion of the original Miners Protection Act of 2016 (S. 175), securing a permanent health care fix for our retired miners who were orphaned by recent coal bankruptcies.  The passage of this legislation ensured that 22,600 of our nation’s miners did not lose the healthcare benefits that they earned over a lifetime of hard work and dedication to our great nation.  The passage of that bill honored the promise of lifetime health care made by the U.S. Government and coal operators over seventy years ago.  The Miners Protection Act of 2016 passed the Senate Finance Committee on a bipartisan vote of 18 to 8, fully offset.

Other cosponsors included Senators Franken (D-MN), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Richard Burr (R-NC), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

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