"But we all know times will be much different than the times during which Senator Byrd was so effective. So our hurdles will be higher," Rahall said.
Getting money to fund the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration will be harder now that Byrd is gone, said Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers.
"People who don't understand Congress think if some person just comes into Congress and works hard, everything will be OK," Roberts said. "It is going to be really hard."
Roberts also said that 152,000 miners and retired miners and their dependents continue getting union health benefits because of laws that Byrd helped pass. "Senator Byrd was the best friend coal miners ever had," he said.
Steve Capozzola of the Alliance for American Manufacturing -- a coalition of the United Steelworkers union, U.S. Steel and other major steel producers -- said Byrd always worked to protect American jobs, particularly manufacturing jobs.
Capozzola praised the Byrd Amendment, which set tariffs on imports produced by cheap foreign labor working for companies often subsidized by their own governments.
"Senator Byrd was also a staunch supporter of investing in infrastructure who frequently championed the use of domestic supply chains. He will be remembered as a true champion of fair trade who fought tirelessly for U.S. manufacturing," Capozzola said.
"He stood up for workers in the steel, aluminum and other metal industries," said Larry Matheney, secretary-treasurer of the West Virginia AFL-CIO. "He supported fair trade, but not free trade. He did not want to see the exploitation of any worker in any country."
"I doubt I will ever see anyone who will be as revered as Senator Byrd," Matheney said. "Labor can look at him and say 'thank you' for the respect he always showed to workers, particularly those who mine coal."
Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, called Byrd "a giant among his fellow legislators and one of the greatest friends working families have ever had."
"From his humble beginning as the son of a miner who had to scratch out a living for his family during the Great Depression, he never forgot where he came from and the people he represented," Gerard said.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.