Miners lobby on Capitol Hill

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- "We deserve it, we worked for this, we aren’t asking for no handouts,” John Palmer a mineworker from West Virginia said.

Palmer worked in the mines for over 40 years. Now he is walking the halls of Congress. He went door to door to talk to his elected representatives. He asked them to support a bill that could save his health care and pension benefits.

“I just wish and pray that everyone gets on board with our senators,” Palmer said.

In December, Congress passed a short-term extension ensuring miners will have their benefits. But it only funded through April. That was a big reason why Tanya James wanted to be here.

“My mother is currently in a nursing facility. She’s not able to come here. And there’s many, many, many more that’s not able to come here,” James said.

James is a third generation coal miner and first female to hold an international office in the United Mine Workers Association.

“We’re here to thank the ones the senators that have supported this bill. And we’re here to ask for support from the ones who haven’t,” she added.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin is the sponsor of the Miners Protection Act, which would guarantee retired coal miners their health care benefits and pensions. Manchin said it’s the pension part of the deal he’s fighting for in Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposal would fund only health benefits, not pensions.

“Just doing half of the bill doesn't fix it. So why prolong it why procrastinate,” Manchin (D-WV) said.

McConnell said there’s a lot of opposition to fixing pension only for miners and not anybody else. He said he wants to focus on what he can solve right now and that’s getting a permanent fix to the health care benefits.

Read the original version of this article at www.graydc.com.

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