The U.S. government avoided a shutdown on Friday night after Senate Democrats gave up on an effort to extend retired miners’ health insurance and the Senate approved a bill that will keep the government funded through April. New Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer subsequently claimed that the party was never willing to shut down the government over the miners’ insurance, an issue he says they only wanted to highlight. According to Politico’s reporting, it seems like the entire dispute — which wasn’t resolved until an hour before the midnight deadline for funding the government — was likely just an attempted show of gamesmanship by Democrats. Schumer apparently told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he would make sure the bill had the votes this time around, but “next time, negotiate.” Republicans didn’t seem worried about the threat, which was spearheaded by Democratic senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sherrod Brown of Ohio. McConnell has said he supports extending the benefits and that the Senate will be able to figure out how to do that before April, when the miners’ insurance will run out.
Earlier on Friday, federal agencies had begun preparing for the potential shutdown. House lawmakers had already left for the year.
Early Saturday morning, the Senate also passed a $12 billion water-relief measure, which authorized 30 new infrastructure projects, including efforts to deepen U.S. ports and address drought problems, albeit somewhat controversially. The bill also included a $170 million aid package to help address the ongoing water-contamination issues in Flint, Michigan.