WASHINGTON — With less than hour to spare, the Senate late Friday backed legislation averting a government shutdown as coal-state Democrats retreated on long-term health care benefits for retired miners but promised a renewed fight for the working class next year.

The vote was 63-36 and sent the stop-gap spending bill to President Obama for his signature before a midnight deadline.

It came hours after Democrats dropped threats to block the measure in hopes of using the shutdown deadline to try to win a one-year respite for 16,500 miners facing the loss of health care benefits at year’s end. Instead, the legislation provides benefits at a cost of $45 million for four months. Democrats evoked President-elect Donald Trump, a working class hero in coal country, in pressing for more benefits. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a potential member of the Trump Cabinet, led the fight of coal-state Democrats.

But House Republicans were unrelenting – and had already vacated the Capitol for a three-week holiday – forcing Democrats to concede. Manchin acknowledged Friday night that he did not have the votes to block the bill, but said “the fight will continue” next year.

“I’m born into a family of coal miners. If I’m not going to stand up for them, who is?” he asked reporters.

Manchin was meeting with Trump on Monday.

The fight gave Democrats, who suffered devastating election losses a month ago at the hands of working-class voters, a chance to cast themselves and not the GOP as the champion of the common man.


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