West Virginia lawmakers split on plan for retired miners benefits

Published: Mar. 22, 2017 at 11:18 PM EDT

“There’s a lot of people nervous you know?" Rick Ryan from Sod, West Virginia said.

The retired West Virginia coal miner is taking to Capitol Hill for the third time to meet with his local representatives. A last ditch effort to save his health care benefits.

“Monday morning I had 16 injections in my neck just so I could come up here and do this this week. I f we lose our insurance I am not going to be able to do that,' Ryan added.

In December, Congress passed a four-month extension of benefits for retired miners. Now that money is set to run out at the end of April.

Ryan met with Congressman David McKinley. McKinley introduced a bill in the House last week that would protect the health care benefits of thousands retired coal miners and their dependents. Wednesday morning, McKinley met with President Trump.

“I’m waiting now to hear from the leadership in the House on whether they will follow through on that, we don’t want something that is a short term fix we gotta give people a permanent fix," McKinley (R-WV-1) said.

McKinley said he feels confident the president will ask Congressional leadership take up his bill. Other lawmakers, like West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, want to see the health care benefits and pensions taken care of at the same time.

“If all they’re going to do is the healthcare part of it right now that means to tell you they don’t want to do the pensions whatsoever,' Manchin (D-WV) said.

Manchin introduced his own bill in the Senate, but it hasn’t come up for a vote. McKinley doesn’t think Manchin’s bill can get enough votes.

Manchin disagrees.

“I do believe we would have 60 votes. At one time we had basically 60 people that sponsored the bill," he added.

After working for 35 years in the mines, Ryan is happy lawmakers are at least addressing health care.

“We’re not asking for anything else, but what we were promised," Ryan said.

Manchin said he will vote for the bill that only addresses health care but he said it’s wrong for Leader McConnell not to include pensions in it.

McKinley said he would like to address both but is focusing on health care first. He said he is confident his health care bill will pass in the House before the funding runs out in April.