CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — The news is promising for coal miners, retirees and their widows. A bipartisan group in Congress, mostly from Appalachian states, believes it will have enough votes to save their pensions from vanishing.
“It preserves the pension for over 25-thousand West Virginia miners and over 90-thousand nationwide. These are pensions that have been worked on, paid into,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, (R) West Virginia.
The problem began during a downturn in the coal industry a decade ago. Companies went bust and many closed. The pension funds dried up as the mines went dark.
“The bankruptcy court could allow these corporations to quote, unquote, shed their liabilities, a fancy way of saying they could walk away from paying miners the benefits they have earned,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, (D) Ohio.
Senator Joe Manchin tried and failed this week, to get the miner’s pension bill attached to the funding bill that kept the government from shutting down. Now he wants a straight up-or-down vote.
“Mitch McConnell could put this on right now. He signed onto the bill, and I’m thankful for that. But he controls the calendar. I want you all to understand, Mitch McConnell, one person, can put that on and say we’re voting on it,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, (D) West Virginia.
McConnell’s Bluegrass State of Kentucky is the nation’s third leading coal producer, right behind West Virginia. yet he has delayed a vote on the measure for years.
“Right now it looks like the next opportunity for Congress to vote on saving the miner’s pensions, will be just before Christmas,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.