Could Democrats drive a government shutdown over miners’ health care?

The government could face a shutdown this week as Senate Democrats and Republicans attempt to find common ground on a health care provision for miners in next year's spending bill.

Cliff Owen/AP
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. talks with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday. A day ahead of a government shutdown deadline, Congress scrambled to wrap-up unfinished business, voting decisively to send President Barack Obama a defense policy bill but facing obstacles on a stopgap spending measure.

The United States Senate will meet in a rare Friday session in order to avoid a government shutdown over spending conflicts, this time led by Democrats primarily fighting for miners’ benefits, among other issues, in the spending bill.

Federal funding is due to run out on Friday. But Senate Democrats may refuse to approve a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running through April, after the House approved it Thursday, as they insist that the bill extend health benefits for thousands of workers. Health benefits for more than 12,000 former union miners are due to expire on Jan. 1, and an additional 10,000 may lose them later, The Washington Post reports. 

If the funding dispute is not resolved by Friday’s spending bill deadline, Senate could send the government into a shutdown, albeit a brief one. Whereas unanimous consent is required for the Senate to take up the bill on Friday, it would not be needed to pass on Sunday. 

"I just want to say to everybody here, we are going to win this fight. I can't predict the exact path, but we are going to win this fight because we're right," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) of New York, the next Senate minority leader, as Politico reports. "We want to get these beautiful people their due, and we won't stop 'til we do."

Republicans say the deal was the best they could get, heightening the possibility the government could close at midnight Friday, reports the Associated Press.

"They're not going to get what they want. They ought to actually be grateful for what they got," said Sen. John Cornyn (R) of Texas, the Senate majority whip.

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sherrod Brown of Ohio are spearheading the effort to extend health benefits for one year. The current bill, which passed in the House of Representatives by a 326 to 96 vote, gives miners health benefits for only four months.

"We can do the right thing between today and tomorrow," Senator Manchin said on the Senate floor on Thursday, The New York Times reports. In his state, which is the largest coal producer east of the Mississippi, 68 percent of voters opted for President-elect Donald Trump, who frequently promised to revive the industry. 

The last government shutdown occurred in 2013 over Republicans' opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, as they attempted to tie federal spending to resolutions to delay or defund the program. That shutdown resulted in thousands of “non-essential” government employees being placed on furlough, and the temporary closure of the national parks.

Although it lasted little more than two weeks, this shutdown was incredibly unpopular among Americans, and the Republican leaders whom much of the country considered the culprits saw their popularity take a sharp hit. House Speaker John Boehner saw his approval rating drop to just 17 percent, for example, while the approval rating for Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas hit 14 percent; the Republican Party as a whole dropped to 24 percent.

Critics of Mr. Trump and the Republican Party say that it is ironic that the party whose campaign messages emphasized US industry and working-class needs, particularly in coal country, has opposed the extension.

"I hope our new president-elect, who talked and got to know the miners, will speak out," Senator Schumer said, according to The Washington Post. "We don’t care about partisanship."

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Could Democrats drive a government shutdown over miners’ health care?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today