Miners’ pensions, health care in spending bill

PARKERSBURG — A $1.4 trillion spending plan to keep the U.S. government open that also will protect the retirement and health benefits for about 100,000 retired coal miners passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The bipartisan year-end spending bill includes a permanent fix for miners’ pension and health care benefits, Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., said. McKinley said the bill contains provisions similar to legislation he has introduced to protect the benefits.

“Over the years, we have worked to keep this issue front and center. So much hard work has gone into getting this legislation to this point, and the retired miners and their families, who made their voices heard in Congress, deserve a lot of the credit,” McKinley said. “This has been a team effort. We are thankful for Sen. (Shelley) Capito and Sen. Joe Manchin’s leadership to make this bill a priority in the Senate. I look forward to this agreement passing the Senate later this week, and being signed into law.”

Among other provisions, the bill protects the lifetime health care benefits for 13,000 miners who would have lost their benefits and 92,000 miners who would have seen their pensions gutted next year without congressional action, Manchin, D-W.Va., said. Manchin said the bill includes the provisions in which the Bipartisan American Miners Act he has proposed.

The Senate will vote on it today or Thursday, Manchin said.

Manchin last week announced he would block any attempt by the Senate leadership to expedite all legislation until he had an agreement on the pension issue. That had an impact as Manchin said the Senate knew he meant business, along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s support and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi putting her support behind it, which eventually was enough pressure for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., House minority leader, to finally compromise on the benefits provisions.

The bill will be before President Trump by Friday, Manchin said. Trump said he couldn’t wait to sign it, according to Manchin.

“I said ‘Mr. President, I can’t wait to get it to you,'” Manchin said.