Biden meets with Republican and Democrat leaders and calls on them to avert rail strike

On Tuesday, President Biden met with representatives from both parties to discuss lame duck session priorities. This included legislation to prevent a rail strike that could decimate the U.S. Economy. 

Biden said that he had asked Congress to meet with him and discuss what they were going to do in terms legislation between now and Christmas. Biden stated, “There is a lot of work to do in resolving our rail strike.” 

It is imperative that Congress act to prevent this. Although it’s not an easy decision, I believe we must make it because the economy is at risk. 

Biden said that the group would be discussing funding for government, which expires December 16th. 

“We’re willing to cooperate to finance, I hope, the government, Covid and war in Ukraine” – all controversial issues and consequential ones. We will find common ground in other areas, I hope, as the American people desire us to work together.  

Biden stated, “I’m going not to stop there, I’m going get started because this is going very quickly and everybody’s going to be able to agree. All kidding aside, we’re here for work to get done,” before the press was dismissed.

Attending the meeting were House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-NY.., Vice President Kamala Harris, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and others.

After McCarthy stated that he believed a rail strike law ‘will pass’ at the meeting but did not like the idea to force it through. McCarthy asked reporters, “How strong is your economic economy if you’re passing a bill to make rail workers work?” He said. 

Biden met Tuesday with representatives from both parties to discuss priorities for lame-duck sessions, including legislation to prevent a rail strike that could decimate the U.S. economy.

'I'M Going To Stop There And Get Started Because I'M Sure This Is Going To Go Very Quickly And Everyone'S Going To Agree - All Kidding Aside, We'Re Here To Get Work Done,' Biden Concluded Before Press Was Ushered Out Of The Room

Biden said: “I’m going not to stop there, I’m going to get started because this is going very quickly and everybody’s going to be able to agree – all kidding aside, it’s time to get work done,” before the press was removed from the room.

The House will consider the rail strike legislation on Wednesday. Schumer stated that he and McConnell had agreed to present it in the Senate as soon after that’.  

The U.S. could lose $2 billion per day to a rail strike that occurs on December 9, and leave 765,000 people without work. Biden called for Congress Monday evening to enforce the tentative agreement among rail workers and operators on four of the 12 rail unions which have rejected it. 

Labor leaders reached a tentative September deal that included a 24% pay increase for rail workers, medical leave, and health care benefits. Eight rail unions ratified their agreements and four rail unions returned to the table. Their rank-and-file members are dissatisfied by the benefits negotiated leaders. 

A sticking pint was the addition of paid sick day days to the tentative arrangement.  

Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker immediately replied to the question by stating that the House would consider a bill to avoid a strike this week.

She stated in a statement that railroads had been “selling out to Wall Street to boost its bottom lines and make obscene profits while requiring more from railroad workers.” 

‘We are reluctant to bypass the standard ratification process for the Tentative Agreement — but we must act to prevent a catastrophic nationwide rail strike.’ 

'We'Re Going To Work Together To Fund, I Hope, We'Re Going To Fund The Government, Covid And The War In Ukraine - All Controversial And Consequential Issues,' Biden Said

Biden stated that he and Covid would work together to finance, I hope, the government and war in Ukraine. These are all controversial and consequential issues. 

She The House will accept the agreement as written, with no modifications to the sick leave policy.  

Biden, a staunch supporter of unions, has in the recent past argued against congressional interference in railway labor disputes. This claim is that it hinders union bargaining efforts. 

Matt Weaver is the Ohio Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees’ legislative director. He said that while rail workers don’t want to strike, they would be more inclined to vote for a deal if Biden asked Congress to include paid sick leave. 

He stated that he wanted paid sick days in an age of high inflation, and a pandemic around illnesses.

“We don’t want to strike.” We want what’s right,’ Weaver stated. 

Party leaders and factions are competing for priorities with limited floor time to move – with key ‘must pass’ legislation also set to soak up time and attention.  Only weeks remain for Democrats to regain unified control over Congress. However, their Senate majority will last into the new Year. 

Legislation to protect same-sex and interracial marriages got a boost this month when a dozen Senate Republicans voted to advance a bill – signaling it could clear a Republican filibuster to become law if it gets priority.

The bill was pushed by Democrats after Roe v. Wade was struck down by the Supreme Court in July. Some lawmakers also warned that protections for same-sex marriage could be next on the horizon.

While Democrats are still in control, legislation to reform the Electoral Count Act with its complicated provisions defining the role Congress plays in the count of the Electoral College votes could also be passed.

A version by Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California and Republican Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney – who is soon to depart Congress – already passed the House, and 16 Republicans are on board with a Senate version. 

These legislative priorities will need to compete for attention with actions to keep the government operating, with the most recent continuing resolution expiring December 16th. 

Legislators must pass either a new one, or a wider ‘omnibus bill’ to fund the government. Parts of the government could be shut down without action right before Christmas. For such large-scale legislation to be passed, it would take the support of Senate Republicans who are retiring.

The impasse could be reached right before Christmas and New Year’s when lawmakers are typically desperate to get back home. 

One reason Democratic leaders are looking at raising the $31.4 Trillion statutory debt ceiling is because of this. While the government may not immediately reach the limit, Democrats could act now to take some leverage away from Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R.Calif.), a candidate for Speaker. 

If they do not, a high stakes battle with a fiscal shut down looming could be a major feature of next year. 

After McCarthy claimed that Republicans wouldn’t give a ‘blank cheque’ for Ukraine aid, President Joe Biden is also pushing for $40 billion in Ukraine financing before the transition.

This follows nine months of security measures that have depleted the supplies and arsenals of NATO and the United States allies.

This is on top the National Defense Authorization Act which is required legislation and sets the direction for U.S. defense policy each year. 

Sen. Mark Warner (R-Va.) stated Tuesday that the legislation for the Electoral Count Act would need to be attached to another must-pass’ bill – the NDAA, or the government funding bill. 

Biden also hopes to secure $9 billion in COVID funding. But Republicans rejected Biden’s last attempt at additional funding. 

Democrats also are considering another push to try to reinstate the expired assault weapons ban following mass shootings in Chesapeake, Va. and Colorado Springs, Colo. separated by mere days. 

Biden is vague about the timing of any push, but he has repeatedly said he will demand action.  

He said, “I’m going trying to get rid of assault weapon,” during his Thanksgiving trip in Nantucket. When asked if he would push Congress to address the issue in the lame duck he replied, “I’m going try to get rid of assault weapons,’ he said. 

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