Health benefits for about 22,000 retired coal miners are to set to expire this weekend
Lawmakers are working on an agreement to extend the benefits in the spending bill
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin “must have fallen out of bed” Thursday morning after seeing tweets from President Donald Trump accusing Democrats of trying to block health benefits for coal miners.
“Tell Chuck I was already up,” Manchin quipped to reporters, responding to the comment. “I might have cut myself while I was shaving, but I was already up.”
Health benefits for about 22,000 retired coal miners are to set to expire this weekend. Lawmakers are working on an agreement to extend the benefits in the spending bill that’s currently being debated in Congress, but has yet to pass ahead of its Friday deadline.
The issue has support from members of both parties, and Manchin said Thursday that all 48 Democrats in the Senate are behind a push for a permanent rather than short-term, solution to keep the payments going in the face of future spending battles in Congress.
The West Virginia senator told reporters there were another 10-15 Republicans who also support a permanent solution. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is one of them. “It’s my hope that that will be included in the final package,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday.
On top of that, Manchin said the President himself, who campaigned heavily for support from coal miners last year, offered his backing of the proposal in multiple phone calls with Manchin this week.
But with Republicans and Democrats still in a standoff over the spending bill, Trump sought to put pressure on Democrats by highlighting the fact that the health benefits for miners is contingent on its passage.
“I want to help our miners while the Democrats are blocking their (health care),” he tweeted Thursday morning in a series of other tweets blasting Democrats for demands that could potentially hold up the bill.
Asked about the President’s tweets, Schumer expressed surprise that Trump would single out the miners’ benefits and called it a “weak” strategy.
“I heard the President said he is pushing for miners’ benefits and we’re blocking it. Joe Manchin, who talks to the President regularly, must have fallen out of bed,” Schumer said. “The whole push for miners comes from Democrats. It was resisted by Republicans for a long time. … So it was out of touch with reality. That’s weak.”
Manchin, though he said he “can’t explain” the tweet, said he believes that Trump supports the miners and brushed off the comment. “Sometimes tweets are just tweets.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also took a shot at the President’s Twitter habit Thursday.
“This morning he had three tweets. I was thinking he was more of a creature that stalked the night, that these things just came out at night like a vampire,” she said in a news conference. “But now it’s spread to the mornings.”
CNN’s Ted Barrett and Casey Riddle contributed to this report.