Proposed Bill To Fund Coal Miners’ Pension Faces Uphill Battle

The Miners Protection Act, federal legislation supported by Ohio senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, is facing a rough road to passage despite bipartisan support, reportedly due to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s opposition.

The measure, if approved, will shift federal money from the Abandoned Mine Land Fund to the 1974 United Mine Workers of America Pension Plan — which is deeply distressed — to help ensure the benefits for about 6, 500 retired mine coal workers.

From Trib Live:

Ohio’s two U.S. senators — Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman — are among those pushing for a legislative fix that supporters say would protect the coal miners’ hard-earned benefits without costing taxpayers anything. The bill has broad bipartisan support, with Democrats and Republicans from Pennsylvania, Indiana and West Virginia leading an aggressive push to pass the measure before the end of the year.

But the bill faces at least one powerful foe in Congress: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who portrays himself as a staunch defender of his home state’s coal industry.

“McConnell … has opposed this because he doesn’t like the United Mine Workers union… We could win this on a straight up-or-down vote,” the Ohio Democrat [said], but McConnell has blocked such a move.

A spokesperson for Senator McConnell said:

“Senator McConnell has been and remains committed to helping ensure the retirement security of our nation’s retirees, including coal miners,” [Robert] Steurer said in an emailed statement. “He appreciates the importance of this issue to many affected coal communities in Kentucky and around the country and continues to believe this issue deserves an open, transparent debate through regular order.”

But government affairs director of the mine workers union Phil Smith said time is running out. “If we don’t get new money into this pension plan through this legislation within the next 12 to 18 months, that fund will be past the point of no return,” he said.

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