Biden’s ‘confident’ rail strike will be averted after meeting with congressional leaders
President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he was « confident » that a rail strike will be averted when meeting with the four top congressional leaders, adding that Congress « must act to prevent » a rail strike.
« I’ve asked the four top congressional leaders to ask if they’d be willing to come and talk about what we’re going to do between now and Christmas in terms of legislation and there’s a lot to do including resolving the strike trains,” Biden said during his meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. .
« It’s not an easy decision, but I think we have to do it, » Biden said. « The economy is in danger. »
On Monday, Biden called on Congress to « immediately » pass legislation to avoid a railroad shutdown by formally passing a September tentative agreement endorsed by labor and business leaders. Rank-and-file members of four unions have rejected the deal and are set to call a railroad workers’ strike on December 9 without a new collective agreement or congressional action.
Biden, a longtime labor ally, along with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and other administration officials helped unions and management reach a tentative agreement averting a freight railroad strike in september.
A railway strike could clog supply chains and lead to soaring prices for basic necessities such as gasoline and food, which would dampen an economy that many fear is heading into a recession . It could also cost the US economy $1 billion in its first week alone, according to analysis by the Anderson Economic Group.
Michael Baldwin, president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, one of four unions whose members voted against the deal, said Tuesday that Biden had let down the union and its members.
“We are trying to solve a sick time problem here. It’s very important,” Michael Baldwin, president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on “Newsroom.” “This action prevents us from reaching the end of our process. It takes away the strength and the capabilities we have to force negotiations or force the railways to put themselves in a position to do the right thing.
Pelosi said Tuesday that the chamber could pass legislation as early as Wednesday to enact the September tentative agreement and avert a possible railroad strike. Once passed, the Senate action could take place later this week or next, multiple Senate sources told CNN. The Senate is expected to get the votes needed to break the bill’s filibuster to avert a potential railroad strike, the Senate sources also said. There will likely be at least 10 Republicans voting with most Senate Democrats to cross the 60-vote threshold.
After the meeting, McConnell expressed his willingness to support the legislation and told reporters « We’re going to have to pass a bill. »
But any senator can slow down the process, as timetable agreements to move legislation forward typically require the unanimous consent of all 100 members of the chamber. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucus with Democrats, criticized the proposed deal to avert a railroad strike on Tuesday.
“You have workers all over the country who work for the railroads, people who do dangerous jobs in bad weather, have no paid sick leave. It’s outrageous,” Sanders told reporters. « I think it’s incumbent on Congress to do everything it can to protect these workers, to make sure the railroad starts treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve. »
Sanders would not commit to voting for or against the legislation and did not respond when asked if he would oppose the Senate’s swift passage of the legislation. Any member can delay a quick vote and potentially postpone final action until after the Dec. 9 deadline to avoid a strike.
Some Republicans are still skeptical of congressional intervention, arguing that they would rather the issue be dealt with administratively.
Maine Senator Susan Collins, a frequent voter, told CNN the measure « deserves careful consideration. »
“I will wait and listen to the lunchtime debate today before drawing any conclusions,” she said.
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, a member of the GOP leadership, also told CNN she was still evaluating the plan.