Government Shutdown Averted as Senate Dems Relent

An attempt by some Senate Democrats to block a continuing resolution will apparently not lead to a government shutdown.

Will there be a government shutdown? No, there will not be. The Senate Democrats blocking passage said  they would not force the federal government to close over the disagreement about coal miners’ benefits.

A threat of a government shutdown appears to to have ended. Democratic senators and aides say they scored their political points by holding up a funding bill that has to pass before midnight to avert a shutdown.

Seeking Political Points With Delay

A small group of Democrats from coal-mining states were trying to use the shutdown as a way to obtain additional benefits for coal miners. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) insisted Democrats will settle for nothing less than a year-long extension of health-care benefits for those miners.

According to multiple news reports, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was not going to give in to the demands of those holding up the continuing resolution. He had stated earlier that the only solution was for those holding up the measure in behalf of health benefits for the miners is to take “yes for an answer.”

That is what happened after it became apparent that there was not enough support to sustain blocking the resolution.

Union Support for Miners

At least one federal employee union wanted to have the continuing resolution passed and also wanted more money for the benefit of the miners. AFGE wrote in a press release:

A government shutdown is never something that we want to see happen. Failing to fund the government’s operations has real-world implications for everyone in this country. Unlike previous shutdowns that were waged purely for political gain and personal retribution, lawmakers today are playing with the rightfully earned health care benefits and pensions of 12,500 retirees and their dependents.

Our brothers and sisters at the United Mine Workers of America are facing a crisis that can be easily averted if senators do the right thing and include the full Miners Protection Act in the must-pass continuing resolution.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV),  led the opposition to the continuing resolution. He says he will continue pressing the issue again next year.

Who is at Fault for Delay?

The White House blamed Republicans for the delay in funding the government. “We should just take a step back and remember that the fact that we are even talking about this is an indication of the failure of Republicans to govern,” according to White Spokesman Eric Schultz.

Senate Majority Leader McConnell disagreed with that assessment. “The difficulty here is they (Democrats) are having a hard time taking yes for an answer. I represent a lot of coal miners, I’m concerned about this issue. I had hoped we’d get a year. But we’ve got until the end of April to get at it again.”

To Be Continued…

So, without a doubt, the budget battle will begin again in 2017 in a new Congress and with a new president in the White House.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47