David McKinley

U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley makes a stop at the Times West Virginian Tuesday to discuss the Miners Pension Protection Act.

FAIRMONT — U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley (R-W.Va.) said he is “cautiously optimistic” about his miners’ pension bill now that it has passed out of committee.

He made the comments during a visit at the Times West Virginian while in Fairmont Tuesday.

Recently, the House Natural Resources Committee passed the Miners Pension Protection Act, with floor action the next step, according to McKinley.

McKinley announced late last month that the legislation, which he said is “aimed at addressing the looming failure of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) 1974 Pension Plan,” passed out of committee with bipartisan support.

McKinley said the Miners Pension Protection Act (H.R. 935) “provides a solution to maintain funding for the pension plan and protect benefits for the more than 100,000 retired coal miners and their families covered by the UMWA Pension Plan.” He said the bipartisan legislation has 89 cosponsors.

“I’m pretty excited about this,” he told the Times West Virginian Tuesday. “After all these years of working on it, cutting deals with people and trying to get votes on it and building this coalition of people, I feel pretty good about it.”

Like others, McKinley is concerned about the future of miners and their families. He states that by 2022, “the UMWA’s pension fund will reach insolvency and pension benefits for more than 100,000 miners and their families will be cut.” He said “the families and communities that depend on those pensions will be at risk as well.”

McKinley has stated that following the vote out of committee, he will “lead a bipartisan letter to Speaker Pelosi, urging her to take the bill to the floor quickly.”

He is hopeful about the bill’s chances.

“It’s going to pass the House and it will go to the Senate, and (Mitch) McConnell’s already agreed, he’s going to take it up over there,” he said. “So, our miners, coal miners, for the first time, I think we’re going to actually see, we’re going to have some success, as long as people don’t put their fingerprints on it and try to screw it up by broadening it out to other things because at that point Mitch McConnell would understandably say, ‘I’m not going to take it up, get me a clean bill and I’ll look at it,’” he said.

McKinley said that since 2013, he “has introduced bipartisan legislation to protect pensions for around 100,000 United Mine Workers Association (WMWA) retirees and family members,” and has led “the fight to protect healthcare benefits for 22,000 retirees whose benefits were threatened by bankruptcies.”

The situation for miners and their families became more precarious recently when Murray Energy announced it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

As previously reported in the Times West Virginian, former Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray said the move was necessary to access liquidity and best position the company for long-term success.

Eric Hrin can be reached at 304-367-2549, or ehrin@timeswv.com.

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