Senate chief McConnell backs invoice to guard coal miner pensions


WASHINGTON (Information) – Senate majority chief Mitch McConnell joined a bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday in introducing a invoice to safe the pensions for almost 90,000 retired coal miners as a latest wave of coal firm bankruptcies threatens the solvency of the federal pension fund.

U.S. Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell (R-KY) departs after an occasion to have a good time federal judicial confirmations within the East Room of the White Home in Washington, U.S., November 6, 2019. Information/Jonathan Ernst

The Bipartisan American Miners Act, co-sponsored by McConnell, of Kentucky, and West Virginia Senators Joe Manchin, a Democrat, and Shelly Moore Capito, a Republican, would switch funds from the federal deserted mine lands program to avert insolvency of the United Mineworkers of America pension plan.

Kentucky and West Virginia are among the many greatest U.S. coal-producing states.

A chapter submitting final week by one of many largest coal mining firms, Murray Power, was anticipated to hasten the insolvency of the pension fund – estimated to happen by 2022. Eight different coal firms have filed for chapter during the last two years as pure fuel has taken over as the first gasoline for U.S. energy vegetation.

“The startling variety of orphaned miners within the drastically underfunded pension plan presents an pressing disaster for total communities of miners, retirees, and their households,” McConnell mentioned in an announcement.

If handed, the invoice would safe the pensions of round 92,000 retired and dealing coal miners and guarantee well being take care of 12,000 retirees.

UMWA, the miners’ union, which has been pushing for Congress to cross laws to save lots of the pensions for years, mentioned the brand new invoice was a breakthrough.

“With this one invoice, the US Senate has taken an enormous, bipartisan step ahead in maintaining America’s promise to our coal miners and their households,” mentioned UMWA President Cecil Roberts.

The invoice doesn’t tackle the way forward for the federal program to make sure medical protection for miners struggling black lung illness, which UMWA has been urging lawmakers to handle here

Manchin had included a measure to revive the next coal excise tax to spice up the Black Lung Incapacity Belief Fund in an earlier model of a pension invoice, however mentioned Wednesday he would introduce a separate invoice to sort out that problem. For now, he mentioned the Senate has a path ahead to handle the looming disaster going through the pension fund.

“This isn’t an answer that may be held off any longer and we should act now,” he mentioned.

A spokeswoman for McConnell didn’t touch upon the timing of shifting the invoice by way of the Senate.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Modifying by Leslie Adler