House GOP made call on miners benefits

House GOP made call on miners benefits

House GOP leaders made the decision to limit health benefits for retired miners to four months, a move that has sparked opposition from Senate Democrats and threatens to briefly shutdown the government.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDoug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh gets questionnaires for confirmation hearing Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (R-Ky.) asked House Republicans to extend the benefits for the year as part of a government-funding measure, but GOP leaders in the lower chamber decided they couldn’t include the concession and still win the votes to pass the larger bill.

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“Leader McConnell requested miners pension and health for a full year. We were only able to provide health for the length of the bill,” AshLee Strong, spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP leaders jockey for affection of House conservatives Five GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump walks back criticism of UK Brexit strategy | McConnell worries US in 'early stages' of trade war | US trade deficit with China hits new record MORE (R-Wis.), wrote in an email.  

A second GOP aide confirmed the yearlong provision did not have support in the House, citing additional costs in the bill.

A half-dozen Democratic senators have stalled the stopgap spending bill in the Senate over the benefits, which would cover thousands of coal miners and their families.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDoug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee Red-state Dem tells Schumer to 'kiss my you know what' on Supreme Court vote Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (D-W.V.), who is up for reelection in 2018 and is also discussing a potential administration appointment with President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSasse: Trump shouldn't dignify Putin with Helsinki summit Top LGBT group projects message onto Presidential Palace in Helsinki ahead of Trump-Putin summit Hillary Clinton to Trump ahead of Putin summit: 'Do you know which team you play for?' MORE, staged a press conference with coal miners outside the Capitol building on Thursday evening, railing against GOP leaders for failing to include a year-long extension of the benefits.

The short-term spending measure pays for coal miners' healthcare benefits through April 28, which is when the funding expires. Manchin and other Democrats are demanding a full year of healthcare benefits, rather than including it with the full spending negotiations next spring.

McConnell sought to make clear on Friday that he had tried to include a “more generous” miner’s package.

“My request to the House was to fund it for a full year but we'll be back at it in April and I think it's highly unlikely it will be taken away,” McConnell said.

In the same floor speech, McConnell urged Democrats to back down in their demands by assuring them that GOP leaders would extend benefits when the funding expires next April.

“It's been my intention that the miner benefits not expire at the end of April next year," McConnell said, adding that Democrats need to "take yes for an answer."

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) told reporters Thursday that he wanted a full-year extension of the benefits but had been blocked by Senate Republicans.

“I agree with Manchin, I wanted the entire provision in our bill. Unfortunately, I was unable to do so because of the Senate blocking that,” Rogers said.

Several other House Republicans blamed the Senate when asked about the miners' healthcare benefits on Thursday.

“It was my understanding that it was the Senate that was holding it up,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). And Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who leads health spending for the House Appropriations Committee, added: "I certainly don’t have any problems being for it, I don’t know why it wasn’t there.”

If Democrats refuse to relent, Congress will miss its midnight deadline to fund the government on Friday, causing a brief government shutdown.

The earliest the Senate can vote on the government funding bill is Saturday morning. It would be just a procedural vote, which means the upper chamber could also be in session on Sunday or Monday.

Scott Wong and Jordain Carney contributed