U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy attends a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden (R) and other congressional leaders to discuss legislative priorities through the end of 2022, in the White House on November 29, 2022 in Washington, DC.
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden hosted a rare meeting of the four House and Senate leaders at the White House on Tuesday, where Republicans and Democrats agreed to pass a bill to avert a nationwide strike by railroad workers before the US economy does not begin to feel its effects as of this weekend.
The meeting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Minority Leader at the House Kevin McCarthy, both of California, was a last-minute addition to Biden. public calendar. It was also the first time the group known as ‘The Big Four’ had met Biden since Republicans narrowly took control of the House earlier this month, and Democrats stayed in the Senate despite strong political headwinds.
Tuesday’s meeting was neither partisan nor controversial, even though power dynamics in Washington are about to change, according to attendees.
“It was a very positive and candid meeting,” Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill after the meeting. “But from a timing point of view, what we need to do now is avoid the strike.”
McConnell struck a similar note: “We had a really good meeting and laid out the challenges that we all face collectively here.”
A the rail strike could officially begin on December 9 if no agreement is reached between the unions and the railway companies. But the effects could be felt before. Freight rail companies are required to alert customers of a potential strike a week in advance, to give them time to make contingency plans.
Congress can intervene by using its power through the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to pass legislation ending a strike or lockout and to set the terms of agreements between unions and carriers. If so, Congress appears poised to enact a tentative labor agreement that was approved in September by some — but not all — of the sector’s major unions.
Pelosi said she plans to introduce a bill in the House on Wednesday morning.
“That’s not all I’d like to see. I think we should have paid sick leave,” she said.
“And I don’t like to go against the ability of unions to strike. But weighing actions, we have to avoid a strike,” Pelosi added.
Pelosi and McCarthy said Tuesday they believe the railroad strike bill has the votes it needs to pass the House.
But in the Senate, where it only takes one senator objecting to delay a bill, emergency rail strike legislation could face new hurdles.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has already announced that he will oppose the bill.
“Just because Congress has the power to impose a heavy-handed solution doesn’t mean we should,” Rubio said in a statement Tuesday.
An unlikely ally for Rubio on the other side of the political spectrum could be Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, who criticized the deal when it was first struck in September. On Tuesday, he declined to say whether he would support the bill.
“Workers across the country who work for the railroads, people who work in dangerous jobs in bad weather, have no paid sick leave. It’s outrageous,” Sanders told reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
“I think it’s incumbent on Congress to do everything it can to protect these workers to make sure the railroad starts treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve,” he said. -he adds.
Rubio or Sanders, or any other senator, could decide to mount a filibuster of the bill, potentially holding it up for days under Senate rules.
McConnell declined to speculate on Tuesday how many Republicans would support the bill.
“You’ll have to ask our members,” he told reporters. “I think some might be inclined to vote against it, and others argue that the economic price of doing so is too high.”
The House is expected to pass a version of the bill on Wednesday morning. After that, the timing becomes harder to predict, given the flexibility given to senators under the chamber’s debate and filibuster rules.