I stand here today with two incredibly strong women, Senator Heitkamp and Senator Shaheen. And of course, you are here as well--the presiding officer from the great state of West Virginia. I think we all approach our jobs with a certain pragmatism about what matters, and it's not about what's left or what's right. It's about what right for the people of this country. And the two issues that the Senator from North Dakota has raised are both incredibly important for these workers. And when people people have felt nickeled and dimed and pushed down by the system, they can't always put a bill number on what that means. They can't always put a numnber on how things have changed and why they feel like, "Hey, my cable bill is eating me up" or "Hey, I can't get a mortgage" or "I can't send my kid to college."
We know that is happening right now. We in this chamber know what's going on and the two things that the senator from North Dakota mentioned are both things that we could do for the people of America. The first is to stand with the coal miners of West Virginia. Promises made to be promises kept. It was Barbara Jordan of Texas that once said that what the American people want is something quite simple. They want a county as good as it's promised. And these coal miners were promised things.
Over 70 years ago, President Harry Truman brokered an agreement that provided health and pension benefits for coal miners in the United Mine Workers of America Health and Retirement Funds. The Coal Act showed a continuing commitment to the health, retirement, and security of coal miners and their families.
In October, approximately 12,500 coal miners and widows received notices telling them their health benefits would be cut off at the end of this year. Retired coal miners and widows. In November, over 16,000 people will lose health coverage. I know negotiations are going as we speak, but we urge our colleagues and the leadership in the United States Senate to do all that they can for these miners--many of whom are in the state of the presiding officer.
As Senator Heitkamp mentioned, we have a similar situation with the Central States Pension Plan. 14,000 Minnesotans. I met with some this weekend. The plan that was originally proposed was rejected by the Treasury Department beacause it was so unfair to these workers and they are continuing to look for a solution.
And I'd say this lastly about the coal miners. In Minnesota we have iron ore miners. While your miners might be covered in black soot, ours are covered in red iron ore. My grandpa worked most of his life underground in the mines in Ely, Minnesota. He had to quit school when he was in sixth grade because his parents were sick. He was the oldest boy of nine kids, and he went to work pulling a wagon. He dreamed of a career in the Navy and instead, every single day he went down in a cage 1,500 feet with a little black lunch pail that my grandma packed for him every single day. The youngest, his youngest sister, had to go to an orphange, and he promised he would go get her. A year and a half after he got that job and married my grandma, he went back and got his little sister Hannah and brought her back and raised her. That's our family story. It's a mining story. I always think about what he thought when he went down in that cage every day: That career in the Navy, out in the woods that he loved to hunt. But instead he did that job. He did that job for his family--his two kids and brothers and sisters. Because he knew if he worked hard he would be able to support them. Because there would be a pension. Because there would be health care. Because he wouldn't die like his own father did leaving behind kids with the oldest one being 21 years old.
That didn't happen. My grandpa raised two boys. One became an engineer. The other, my dad, went to a two-year college that got paid for at the time and went onto get a journalism degree and interview everyone from Mike Ditka to Ronald Reagan and Ginger Rogers.
Another part of our state that believes if you work hard every day, you should be able to get to where you want to go are those that work in manufacturing. Those in the rural part of our state. And I don't think they put together the Ex-Im Bank with their own livelihood. That is a complex part. While we saved the Ex-Im Bank, which finances small businesses in Minnesota, that wouldn't be able to deal with going to a big, major bank, we still haven't confirmed someone for that board. And getting that person confirmed for that board through the Senate would mean that the Ex-Im Bank could go back to its functional lelves of financing major transactions. That's why we're here to ask the Senate to support the nomination of Jay McWatters to serve as a member of the board of directors. I join my colleagues to do that.
On January 11, the Senate Banking Committee received the nomination of Mr. McWatters to fill the Republican vacancy on the board. This is a Republican candidate that we're asking the Senate to confirm. But it is 333 days and counting since he has been nominated.
In 2015, I remember bringing together a group of small businesses from all over the country to talk about the importance of the Ex-Im Bank to hear their stories of how they're going to go under if they're not allowed to continue their financing. And mostly, at a time where we are dealing with the winds of global competion being blown at us every single day, to be at such a disadvantage to other developed nations that have Ex-Im type bansk, that have financing authority--it's not just China who's going to eat our lunch unless we can get over $10 million in financing. They must be laughing at us over there.
There are about 85 credit export agencies in 60 countries including all major exporting countries. Why would we want to make it harder for our own companies to create jobs right here at home and then allow these other countries to have these financing agencies that compete with us? That is exctly what's going on right now. The Ex-Im Bank has supported $17 billion in U.S. exports. That's American jobs. $17 billion. It has a cap of $135 billion. That sounds like a lot, but an article in the Financial Times showed the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China combined has an estimated $684 billion in total development finance. So these two banks combined provide five times as much financing as the Ex-Im Bank with its cap of $135 billion.
As Senator Heitkamp explained, this is about jobs. And it's as simple as that. In 2015, Ex-Im financing supported 109,000 U.S. jobs. Since we reauthorized, 649 transactions have been approved. Now it is about time that we put the person on the board--the Republican nominee--so they can go back to fully functioning and be able to make transactions that are worth over $10 million. Without a quorum and board approval, Ex-Im is not able to adopt any of the accountability measures or update the loan limits so that American businesses have access to the financing they need to compete globally.
Here we are, three Democratic senators on the floor simply asking the United States Senate to move ahead to confirm a Republican nominee. That may be irony, but it's irony that is on the backs of the American people. And we need to get it done. Thank you, Madam President. I yield the floor.