Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump puts on a miners hard hat during a rally in Charleston, W.Va., Thursday, May 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Late last week, a group of Senate Democrats — led by West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin — took things down to the wire to try to squeeze a long-term fix for the troubled United Mine Workers of American’s health care and pension programs into an emergency government funding bill. They weren’t successful.
But as we reported on Friday night, Manchin is turning his attention on this matter to the future, saying he will push for President -elect Donald Trump to step in and make the UMW retirees a priority once the Republican takes office on Jan. 20.
Other West Virginia leaders are also making it clear they believe this issue needs a long-term solution. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said on Friday:
While it’s disappointing to see only a short term extension of benefits at this time, this issue was way too important to offer false hope and risk our miners walking away with nothing. This CR has now given us a chance to fight another day. I have already spoken to members of House Leadership, incoming Chairman Frelinghuysen and incoming Chairwoman Virginia Foxx and received a commitment to work toward a long-term solution for healthcare and pensions early in the next Congress. It’s time to work together and give our miners peace of mind so they know their benefits won’t be jeopardized by politics.
And Sen. Manchin isn’t the West Virginia political leaders turning to President-elect Trump for help on this. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said late Friday night:
Preserving retirement benefits for our nation’s coal miners is among the most important and pressing items on the congressional agenda
Sen. Capito sent this letter to the President-elect, telling him:
Your recent election has provided hope in West Virginia communities. I look forward to working with you on policies that will help put our miners back to work and rebuild local economies that rely on energy production. It is just as important that we act to preserve health care and pension benefits for retirees who have suffered from the down turn in the coal industry. I ask that you work with me and a bipartisan group of my congressional colleagues to enact the Miners Protection Act early in the 115th Congress.”
I’m not aware of any comments that the President-elect made about this issue during the presidential campaign. My request to the transition team for a comment on the matter hasn’t received a response.