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Biden urges Congress to avert a rail strike

President Joe Biden meets with congressional leaders to discuss legislative priorities for the rest of the year on Tuesday at the White House in Washington. From left: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Andrew Harnik
/
AP
President Joe Biden meets with congressional leaders to discuss legislative priorities for the rest of the year on Tuesday at the White House in Washington. From left: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

A rail strike is likely without congressional action, President Biden warned Tuesday morning before meeting with bipartisan House and Senate leaders at the White House to talk about remaining legislative priorities.

"It's not an easy call. But I think we have to do it," he said before the meeting. "The economy's at risk."

Among the meeting participants were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The meeting comes a day after the president urged Congress to adopt a tentative agreement between railroad workers and operators to avert a strike, which could hobble an already fragile economy. The House is expected to vote on the measure on Wednesday. It is unclear whether the measure has 60 votes in the Senate in order to proceed to a vote.

After the meeting Schumer told reporters he and McConnell had agreed to get a bill passed in the Senate "ASAP," well before the Dec. 9 deadline. Asked whether he had the votes, he said, "We're working on it."

At least one Senate Republican said leaders should not count on his vote. In a tweet, Sen. Marco Rubio wrote he won't vote for a deal "that doesn't have the support of rail workers." A majority of unions have approved of the deal, but four of the 12 involved in the negotiations, including the largest, have voted against it.

Biden struck an optimistic note about a bipartisan deal on government funding

"We're going to work together to fund, I hope work together, to fund the government, COVID and Ukraine," Biden said. "And we're going to find other areas of common ground I hope, because the American people want us to work together."

Separately, Congress is also running out of time to pass a funding bill before government funding runs out on Dec. 16. After the meeting, Pelosi opened the door to a one-year continuing resolution of government funding rather than an omnibus bill, noting that with time running out, Democrats may have to accept one.

Biden's fellow Democrats control Congress until Jan. 3, when Republicans take control of the House, which they narrowly won in the midterms.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Washington desk
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