Tuesday, December 13, 2016

McConnell says he favors long-term fix for miners' health benefits; mum on pensions

Sen. Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote in an op-ed for Kentucky newspapers that he favors a long-term fix for coal miners' health benefits, which Congress recently extended through April 2017 to 12,500 retired miners and their families. McConnell did not mention miners' pensions, which are also at risk due to the coal industry's decline.

McConnell took credit for the fix and wrote: "While it was my preference to include a long-term solution, it was more important to protect the benefits for thousands of my constituents, than to risk any lapse in benefits by fighting for a broader provision. With this legislation, miner-health benefits extend to the end of April, and I’m going to work with my colleagues to ensure they continue after that."

Democrats and the United Mine Workers of America, which opposed McConnell's 2014 re-election, have called the move a temporary fix that doesn't solve the long-term issue, Dylan Brown reports for Environment & Energy News. who In his column, McConnel said he had met with unnamed UMWA members.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) had threatened to hold up action on the resolution unless McConnell granted a floor vote to his bill to permanently guarantee pensions and retiree benefits for more than 100,000 coal workers and dependents, to be funded by fees coal companies pay to the Abandoned Mine Land Fund.

In his column McConnell mentioned a bill by House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) that would accelerate spending from the fund in areas that have been most hurt by the loss of coal jobs, but didn't officially endorse it.

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