Administration

Biden calls on Congress to prevent rail shutdown: ‘The economy’s at risk’

President Joe Biden, center, at the top of a meeting with congressional leaders to discuss legislative priorities for the rest of the year, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2020, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. From left are House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, of N.Y., Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Biden on Tuesday told Democratic and Republican congressional leaders that the House and Senate must pass legislation to avert a rail shutdown, warning of risks to the economy.

Biden met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at the White House Tuesday, where he told the leaders that it’s up to Congress to prevent a potential rail strike that could disrupt supply chains just before the holiday season.

“It’s not an easy call but I think we have to do it. The economy’s at risk,” he added, according to The Wall Street Journal. He also said that he is “confident” that a strike can be avoided, according to CNN

The meeting was intended to discuss legislative agenda items for the lame-duck session of Congress the rest of this year, but Biden opened his remarks in the meeting by noting the rail strike would be a major topic.

“I asked for top leaders in Congress to come in and talk about what we’re going to do between now and Christmas,” the president said. “There’s a lot to do, including resolving the train strike.”

Biden on Monday called on Congress to pass a bill immediately that would avert a shutdown before a Dec. 9 deadline, warning of the disruptions to the economy if lawmakers don’t act. His plea to Congress comes amid an ongoing labor standoff that could shut down crucial shipments of food and fuel.

In response, Pelosi said that the House will take up a bill some time this week to adopt the tentative agreement that would avert a strike.

A tentative Biden-backed agreement in September was approved by labor and management negotiators, but not every rail union has signed on. That agreement would give union members a 14 percent raise, and workers whose pay had been frozen would get a higher wage increase and a boost in medical care. 

Biden said on Monday that he shares workers’ concerns about the agreement not including time to recover from illness or care for a family member, adding that he is working to advance paid leave.

Also in the meeting on Tuesday, the president and the four leaders discussed how to keep the government funded, giving Americans tools to fight COVID-19 and supporting Ukraine amid the ongoing Russian invasion, according to the White House.

The meeting comes as Congress is working toward striking a deal to pass an omnibus spending package, which would likely include additional aid to Ukraine, before the end of the year.

Biden also told them he is eager to continue to work across the aisle “in good faith.”

“The President also told his Republican colleagues that whatever disagreements they may have, he is always interested in finding new common ground, and that he has an open door to hear their perspectives about doing so,” according to the White House.

—Updated at 1:06 p.m.

Tags Biden Charles Schumer Kevin McCarthy Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi

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