WASHINGTON Dec 9 Coal mining executive Robert
Murray, one of Donald Trump's biggest campaign backers, said on
Friday he wants the president-elect to support a bill that would
protect the health and pension benefits of thousands of coal
miners retired from companies that have gone bust.
The outspoken founder of Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp
said he has asked Trump, who campaigned on a promise
to help the coal industry, to speak out on behalf of the
spending bill provision currently tied up in Congress.
"I asked him and Vice President-elect Mike Pence to be
involved verbally and in writing," Murray told Reuters in an
interview. Murray said he has not yet heard back.
A Trump transition official did not respond to a request for
Murray Energy was among the biggest contributors to Trump's
bid for the presidency. Its $100,000 donation to the Trump
Victory PAC was the PAC's largest from a company, according to
Trump's fundraising committee's latest filing. Murray also
hosted fundraisers for the Republican candidate.
On the campaign trail, Trump won over coal-producing states
by promising to revive the sector, put laid-off miners back to
work, and scrap regulations that he said are hobbling the
Coal prices have sunk in recent years due to competition
from cheap natural gas and rules to combat climate change
ushered in by President Barack Obama.
The Senate is now contemplating a spending bill that
contains a provision to extend the benefits of retired coal
miners whose companies have gone bankrupt until next April, but
some coal state Democratic senators are agitating for a
longer-term solution and threatening a government shutdown. A
group of Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell of Kentucky, are resisting, and the bill is in limbo.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday that the
Obama administration hopes "there should be bipartisan common
ground to address the needs of these 20,000 coal miners who are
slated to lose their health insurance at the end of the month."
Dozens of United Mine Worker retired miners have been on
Capitol Hill this week holding rallies and visiting lawmakers to
urge them to pass a longer-term solution.
UMWA spokesman Phil Smith said the Trump transition team is
aware of the issue but has not said anything publicly.
As one of just a handful of U.S. coal companies that has not
declared bankruptcy, Murray said his company is struggling to
pay into its health and pension funds and "can't compete with
those companies that didn't go through bankruptcy proceedings."
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Richard Valdmanis
and Leslie Adler)