Pelosi Floor Remarks in Support of the Bipartisan Miners Protection Act

Dec 8, 2016
Press Release

Contact: Drew Hammill/Caroline Behringer, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today on the House Floor in support of the bipartisan Miners Protection Act.  Below are the Leader’s remarks. 

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentlelady for yielding, and for her superior service on the Rules Committee.  Mr. Speaker, across America today, hard-working people and seniors find that their retirement security is under threat and in doubt.  Congress has the responsibility to strengthen America’s retirement security, and we dishonor that responsibility with the half measure for coal miners in the CR today – less than a half measure.

“I commend [Congressman] Cartwright of Pennsylvania.  He knows full well the contribution that the coal miners made to our economy.  He knows the stress that they are under from what is happening now and how this is exacerbated by the Continuing Resolution.

“22,500 coal miners in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and across Coal Country are facing a complete loss of their health and pension benefits in 2017.  However, the Continuing Resolution offers these men and women only a short term.  Senator [Joe] Manchin in the Senate has been making the pitch and many of us have joined him that these health and pension benefits should be in our legislation at least for five years, preferably in perpetuity.  What the CR says is not five years, not in perpetuity, not in five years.  For four months – for four months and only health benefits, completely ignoring the pension part of it.

“Coal miners are on the Hill today to make their case to tell their personal stories about how this has affected them.  After a lifetime of service and in a culture built around that industry, they trusted that their pension and their health benefits would be there, but their companies went bankrupt.

“Think of this, my colleagues: if you, anyone in your family or any of your constituents were working a lifetime in a company, in an industry, and that company went bankrupt and the answer to you is, ‘Tough luck.  We went bankrupt.  Your pension went down the drain.’  It's absolutely criminal.  It's absolutely criminal.  And the CR offers the short-term, as I said, four month patch for health care and leaves the miners worse off in April than they are now.

“Thank you, Senator Manchin, for taking the lead in such a forceful way.  Thank you, [Congressman] Matt Cartwright, for leading us here to hope we can defeat this rule.  I urge my Republican colleagues who are from Coal Country, in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia – and Coal Country goes beyond.  Virginia is one of the biggest coal-producing states.  You might not realize that.

“The CR does nothing, does nothing to solve the critical pension problem that threatens the future of these miners and their families.  With our Previous Question, Democrats, led by Congressman Cartwright, are calling on Republicans to do better.  We should be voting on common sense bipartisan legislation that will give miners in Coal Country the peace of mind knowing their retirements that they worked on all their lives are secure.

“Mr. McKinley of West Virginia, Republican, has led the way with the Miners Protection Act.  It's a bipartisan bill – has 87 co-sponsors.  And we would like to defeat this rule so that we can bring up Mr. McKinley’s Miners Protection Act.  The bipartisan bill would transfer funds in excess of the amounts needed to meet existing legislation under the abandoned Landmine Fund to United Mine Workers 1974 Pension Plan to prevent its insolvency.  The funds are there.  They just need to be transferred.  Mr. McKinley’s bill does that – makes certain retirees who lose health benefits following the bankruptcy or insolvency of his or her employer eligible for benefits.

“As these families head to the holiday season, we must ensure they can celebrate knowing that the health and pension benefits they've earned will always be there for them.  I was disappointed that in the CR we did not have an extender for some renewable alternatives, but we were told by the Speaker's office that, ‘Our guys are fossil fuel guys.  They are not interested in the renewables.’  Okay, I respect that.  If you're fossil fuel guys, why aren't you looking out for the fossil fuel people who have worked under dangerous circumstances for their lives going into unsafe situations breathing air that has created problems for their health and now the companies have declared bankruptcy or insolvency?  ‘Tough luck for the workers.’

“Mr. McKinley knows that's not right.  That's why he introduced the bill.  Mr. Cartwright knows that's not right.  That's why he’s supporting the bill.  And that’s why Democrats come to the Floor today to urge Republicans to express their concern for their constituents in the fossil fuel industry, to do justice to them for the service they have provided, for the benefits, pension and health-wise, that they are entitled to.

“So we'll see what the commitment is of the Republicans in Congress to the fossil fuel guys and gals.  We'll see on their vote here today.  Vote ‘no’ on the [rule], so we can vote ‘yes’ on the McKinley Miners Protection Act.  And I yield – later on the CR further – but for now, I yield back the balance of my time.”

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