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US Senate to avert gov't shutdown after Democrats stop coal protest

Many government services and operations would have been closed or suspended starting at midnight if the Senate did not pass a series of spending measure scheduled for votes at 10 p.m. EST (0300 GMT).

Incoming Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said some Democrats would oppose the measure, but not so many that it would fail.

“We’re not going to shut down the government. We’re going to keep it open. We’re going to provide the votes to make sure we don’t shut down,” Schumer on the Senate floor.

Democrats from coal-producing states, led by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, had delayed the vote on the funding bill, risking a possible government shutdown, to demand a longer extension of the miners’ healthcare benefits that expire at the end of this year, but they did not get their way.

The legislation passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday provided financial support for four more months of benefits, through April, but Manchin and other Senate Democrats wanted at least a year.

Republicans refused to reopen the issue. But Schumer said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had promised Manchin he would work next year to continue the benefits beyond April. Manchin and the other Democrats then announced that they would continue to oppose the measure, but they stopped objecting to holding the vote.

The government funding bill would keep federal agencies funded until April 28.

Democrats had expressed some hope that Republican President-elect Donald Trump, who won the presidency with support of many blue-collar workers, would support their cause.

Schumer said Trump could still weigh in on the issue next year.

“The president elect ran on a campaign with explicit direct promises to coal country, and he won coal country big, that’s for sure,” Schumer said. “So we are simply asking our president-elect, to communicate to the people in his party, to get on board, live up to the promise we made the miners many years, decades ago.”

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