What to Know in Washington: House Votes to Avert Rail Strike

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The House plans to take up legislation on Wednesday to prevent a strike by freight-rail workers, and prospects were brightening for quick action in the Senate despite resistance from a few Republicans and progressive Democrats.

President Joe Biden, who helped broker a deal between railroads and labor that was rejected by members of four of 12 unions, urged Congress to impose the agreement anyway, saying, “The economy’s at risk.”

Source: Bloomberg

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that the legislation to impose the tentative agreement reached in September has the votes to pass. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that the chamber’s Republican leader, Mitch McConnell (Ky.,) had agreed try to pass the bill as quickly as possible.

An objection by any senator to fast tracking the measure could push final Senate action until close to the formal strike deadline of Dec. 9.

Number two Senate Republican John Thune (S.D.) told a panel of Bloomberg editors and reporters in Washington that while many Republicans would prefer not to have Congress intervene, a “significant” number would likely vote for the measure if it comes to the Senate floor.

Railroads likely will begin shutting down rail service as soon as the end of this week, beginning with embargoes on accepting hazardous freight, to make sure rail cars aren’t left stranded on the tracks, adding to pressure on Congress to intervene.

The House will also vote on adding seven days of paid sick leave as a technical correction to the bill. That procedure would allow the Senate to hold a quick up-or-down vote on the sick leave matter and then proceed to debating the underlying legislation if the sick leave change is rejected.

Pelosi told reporters she would vote for sick leave.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he will demand a vote on an amendment that would provide the benefit. But in a positive sign, he told reporters that he expects that it will be allowed, which could streamline the process in the Senate.

Thune told reporters that he did not think there would be enough Republican votes to pass the Sanders amendment. Read more.

  • Business groups are signaling the alarm that Biden’s call for Congress to intervene could come too late to stop a potential shutdown of transportation arteries vital to the broader economy. Read more.

Also Happening on the Hill


  • The House meets at 9 a.m. and plans to vote on resolutions to prevent a freight-rail worker strike, among other measures
  • The Senate meets at 10 a.m. to consider two judicial nominations

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Around the Administration


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  • At 2 p.m. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre gives a press briefing

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With assistance from Maeve Sheehey

To contact the reporter on this story: Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Katrice Eborn at keborn@bgov.com

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