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Biden, Congress race to avert economy-shaking railroad strike


A potential railroad strike has thrown President Biden a holiday curveball and pushed Congress into crisis mode, scrambling to finalize a federal fix to stave off an economy-rattling freight shutdown at the end of next week.
Biden hosted the top four congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday, less than a day after he’d urged Congress to break the impasse between rail companies and unionized employees that’s threatened to freeze much of the nation’s freight system on Dec. 9.
Shortly after the gathering, House Democratic leaders said they’d rush a resolution to the floor Wednesday morning, where it’s expected to pass with bipartisan support despite reservations from lawmakers on the fringes of both parties.
“This is about whether or not we shut down the railroads of America, which would have extreme, negative impacts on our economy,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters as he announced the vote.
The proposal has been panned both by liberals, who said it doesn’t go far enough to help rail workers, particularly when it comes to sick leave benefits, and by conservatives, who are attacking the very notion that the federal government would “meddle” in a private sector dispute. And Hoyer stopped short of saying it has the votes to pass. 
“We just got back,” he said. “We’re counting.” 
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced on Tuesday evening that the House will vote Wednesday on the tentative agreement, then consider a separate measure that would add seven days of paid sick leave to the resolution — a direct response to the criticism some Democrats have raised regarding the agreement.
The House will then send the package to the Senate for consideration, Pelosi said.
All sides agree that a rail shutdown would debilitate an already fragile economy heading into the holidays, and top lawmakers in both parties appeared ready to push the bill through, saying they had no other choice. 
“At this late hour, it is clear that there is little we can do other than to support this measure,” Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), the ranking Republican on the House Rules Committee, said Tuesday as the bill was sent to the floor. “The clock is running out, and the president has made clear that this resolution is necessary to avoid a costly strike at the nation’s railroads right as we go into the holiday season.”
The heavier lift will be in the Senate, where 60 votes will be needed to avoid a GOP filibuster — a bar that will be tougher to top if liberal senators also oppose the measure. 
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said it’s too early to know how many Republicans will get on board.

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