Coal miners all across the country are suffering from the Obama Administration’s war on their industry, but some in Congress are trying to take advantage of the situation to use federal funds to bail out a private pension for a select group of miners.
During a U.S. Senate committee meeting today, U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., spoke out against the Miners Protection Act, which would provide federal funds to shore-up the United Mine Workers of America’s (UMWA) underfunded pension plan.
According to Enzi, while coal miners all across the country are suffering from the Obama Administration’s war on their industry, this bill would only help provide relief to those who are members of the UMWA.
“In my home state of Wyoming, we have a whole lot of good miners who produce a lot of great coal – about 40% of the nation’s supply over the last several years,” Enzi said. “But the vast majority of them don’t belong to any union. Some of them were hit hard this year by layoffs. These are folks who just want to get back to work producing energy, and want to be able to put food on the table for their families.”
If the legislation became law, Enzi pointed out that it would be the first time the federal government has ever used federal money to bail out a private pension plan, which would set a dangerous precedent that could cost billions of dollars.
“Private sector pensions are relied upon by millions of Americans for retirement security, and thousands of those plans are underfunded,” Enzi said. “We need to find a solution to that problem. Unfortunately, the bill before us today doesn’t solve that problem. Rather than addressing the thousands of underfunded pension plans, today we are considering one bill that helps one underfunded plan, and it does so at the expense of the federal Treasury.”
During the committee hearing, Enzi also tried to dispel misconceptions that the legislation would fulfill a federal commitment from the 1940s to provide pension benefits to retired miners. Citing a legal opinion from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, Enzi reiterated that no government guarantee for UMWA pension benefits has ever existed.
Though a majority of Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee voted against the legislation, the bill passed 18 to 8, and now heads to the Senate floor.
For more information on the bill click here.