Walking into Rep. David McKinley’s (R-W.Va.) office, the first thing a visitor notices is the life-size poster above his couch of coal miner James Brandon and his young daughter, Kailee.
“I’m looking out for this guy right here,” McKinley said, pointing to the poster.
“When I came to Washington, I found out that the mining industry did not have very much respect and these individuals were treated as numbers and I’m trying to personalize it for anyone who comes into the office.”
“This coal miner, he’s real. He’s a human being. He’s a father, a brother, an uncle, a neighbor, the guy who sits in front of you in church. He’s not just a statistic.”
McKinley’s district is in coal country and the proud seventh-generation West Virginian is fighting to protect it.
“People don’t understand if they’ve never been in a coal mine,” McKinley said. “This guy has to crawl on his hands and knees all day long for weeks and months on end until he gets that coal, just so you and I can go home and have electricity and turn on our air conditioning … I want them to be held with a higher esteem here in Congress.”
One way that McKinley has tried to raise the profile of coal is through H.R. 2273, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act. That bill passed the House in October 2011, but never got a vote in the Senate.