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 McConnellSenate tees up Yemen vote for Tuesday Senate confirms Trump's border chief House leaves out ObamaCare fix from must-pass funding bill 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.

“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 RyanSpending deal talks down to toughest issues, lawmakers say Schiff: I thought more Republicans would speak out against Trump Dem leaders pull back from hard-line immigration demand 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) ManchinSenate GOP: We will grow our majority in midterms CIA torture could stymie nominee An upset, yes, but a short victory lap for Democrat Lamb in Pennsylvania 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 TrumpLieu: There will be 'widespread civil unrest' if Trump fires Mueller Attorneys for Trump, Mueller hold face-to-face meeting to discuss potential interview topics: report Trump tariffs not helpful for nuclear talks, South Korea says 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