Could the Fight Over Miners’ Benefits Lead to a Government Shutdown?

Dec 1, 2016

Sen.  Joe Manchin is attempting to put pressure on Congressional leaders in Washington to take quick action on a bill to save the healthcare and pension benefits of thousands of coal miners. 

On a conference call with reporters Thursday, Manchin said he is working with members of both the U.S. House and Senate to pass the Miners Protection Act.

The bill transfers mine reclamation money to a fund that provides healthcare and pension benefits for tens of thousands of miners across the country. That fund is drying up and without Congressional intervention, nearly 13,000 miners, retirees and their families will lose the benefits by the end of the year with more to come the following year.

Manchin said the Miners Protection Act is not likely to be taken up in Congress’ December session, but instead, the provisions will be rolled into a continuing resolution needed to fund the federal government.

That bill must be approved by Dec. 9 to avoid a federal government shutdown, but Manchin isn’t so sure it will include the necessary funding to save miners’ pensions.

“I don’t want to give false hope to anybody," Manchin said. "I think our chances are much better right now from what I’m understanding, from what I’m hearing, on the healthcare--but we’re not going to quit fighting for the pension too.”

Manchin says the Senate’s Democratic caucus is prepared to block the funding bill if it doesn’t include the nearly $3 billion to fund the benefits. He added he doesn't want to encourage a government shutdown, but is willing to do "whatever it takes" to find a solution.