House approves funding bill, but fate in Senate unclear

House approves funding bill, but fate in Senate unclear
© Greg Nash
 
House lawmakers on Thursday approved a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running through April, but the bill faces an unclear path in the Senate with a Saturday deadline looming.
 
Lawmakers are bolting for the exits after clearing the spending bill 326-96 in their final vote before a nearly month-long holiday recess. 
 
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GOP leaders are confident the bill will head to the president’s desk in time to avoid a government shutdown on Saturday. The Senate is expected to take up the funding bill Friday, but delays are possible because of last-minute Democratic demands to protect retirement and health funds for thousands of coal miners.
 
A trio of Democratic senators from the heart of coal country are threatening to hold up the bill until miners receive a “permanent” fix for both healthcare and benefit benefits. Democratic Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinKavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow MORE (W.Va.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDark money group targets Brown over previous domestic violence claim Biz groups fracture after Dodd-Frank rollback Five biggest surprises in midterm fight MORE (Ohio) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyKavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow MORE (Ind.) warned they could keep Congress in town until Christmas. 
 
The bill, released Tuesday night, includes an extension of healthcare benefits for miners and their families. That new funding would last until the short-term funding bill expires at the end of April, and it doesn’t include retirement benefits. 
 
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), a vocal supporter of the coal miners’ benefits, told reporters Thursday the decision not to extend the program further was made by Senate leaders.
 
“I agree with Manchin, I wanted the entire provision in our bill. Unfortunately, I was able to do so because of the Senate blocking that,” Rogers said. 
 
“Of course I want to see the pension as well as the healthcare benefits. We did get healthcare, but, we can’t let the government shut down, he added. 
 
The Senate would need support from every member to approve the bill by midnight on Friday because of the quick turnaround on the spending bill. If leadership can’t reach a deal, the Senate would require weekend work. 
 
Rogers said he was confident GOP leaders would avoid a shutdown. If the Senate tweaked the bill, the House could vote through unanimous consent over the weekend. 
 
"I’ll let the Senate do their thing, we’ll react if necessary," Rogers said.
 
Many House Republicans who supported the coal miner benefits said it could be addressed next year during the next round of spending bills. 
 
"I think most people have swallowed hard and gotten comfortable with the provisions that are in the House CR," Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill FloresWilliam (Bill) Hose FloresJordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker The White House can — and should — bypass Congress to kill Obama-era spending GOP leaders jockey for affection of House conservatives MORE (R-Texas) told The Hill just before the vote Thursday.
 
The miners’ pension program broke out Wednesday as a possible hold-up for the spending bill. 
 
Manchin, Brown and Donnelly blocked a slate of bills late Wednesday evening – including a resolution in remembrance of the Pearl Harbor attack. 
 
As Brown left a Democratic caucus meeting Thursday, he said Democrats are "united" behind demanding one year of healthcare benefits.
 
Senate GOP leaders, however, have stood firm behind the current language. 
 
Sen. John CornynJohn CornynKavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow Grassley: Kavanaugh accuser 'deserves to be heard' in 'appropriate' manner MORE (R-Texas), the chamber's No. 2 Republican, told reporters Thursday that the Democrats' resistance "can't change the outcome" on miners. He hinted that the Senate could still finish its work by Monday, over the objections of the Democrats, without causing a government shutdown. 
 
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also announced Thursday afternoon she would oppose the spending bill because of the short timeline for the coal miners benefits and what she described as too little funding for the Flint, Mich., lead water crisis.
 
 
Asked Thursday whether President Obama would veto the bill over the miner’s benefits, press secretary Josh Earnest replied: “I think it is our steadfast hope it is not going to come to that.”

The short-term spending bill was initially released Tuesday to little fanfare, save for a Senate-added provision to expedite consideration of incoming President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpOver 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: study CNN's Anderson Cooper unloads on Trump Jr. for spreading 'idiotic' conspiracy theories about him Cohn: Jamie Dimon would be 'phenomenal' president MORE’s pick for Defense secretary, former Gen. James Mattis. 

Even that issue fizzled within 24 hours. Both the White House and top congressional Democrats signaled Wednesday that they would not block the bill over the Mattis language. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday: “I don’t think that will be an obstacle.”