House Passes Bill to Avert a Rail Strike, Moving to Impose a Labor Agreement

Several Republicans questioned why the Biden administration had not pushed to give the unions and companies more time — past the current Dec. 9 deadline — to negotiate a deal, rather than ask Congress to impose the agreement.

Congress is “supposed to be the very last resort, but I don’t know that there’s been an extreme effort by the administration to get this worked out,” said Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa. “President Biden needs to be out there taking the lead on this.”

But the threat of economic damage, as well as Mr. Biden’s personal appeal for Congress to act, appeared to have provided the momentum necessary to propel the measure with unusual speed through the House on Wednesday.

“We are here to safeguard the financial security of America’s families, to protect American economy as it continues to recover and avert a devastating, nationwide rail shutdown,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, who defended the Biden administration’s record championing unions and workers in a speech on the House floor.

“A nationwide rail shutdown would be catastrophic — a shutdown would grind our economy to a halt, and every family would feel the strain,” she added, pointing to the possibility of lost jobs and the inability to easily transport a variety of goods across the country. “Time is of the essence — we must act now.”

It was unclear whether the paid leave proposal had the bipartisan support necessary to pass the Senate, but by passing it, the House left open the possibility that it could ultimately be added before the tentative agreement was cleared for Mr. Biden’s signature.

At least one Senate Republican, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, said he planned to back the paid leave proposal, though he would oppose the agreement itself. Several Senate Democrats were pushing for a vote on the proposal, including Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the independent.

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