“I am grateful to Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats and Republicans for taking urgent action to prevent a rail shutdown,” Biden said in a statement released after the vote. “This overwhelming bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives makes clear that Democrats and Republicans agree that a rail shutdown would be devastating to our economy and families across the country.”
The House vote puts the country one step closer to avoiding a rail strike on Dec. 9, which could have devastating effects on the economy. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it will likely receive a vote before the weekend.
House lawmakers voted for the rail agreement 290-137 but were more divided on a measure providing seven days of paid sick leave. That provision narrowly passed 221-207. Only three Republicans voted for the provision, spelling trouble for its fate in the Senate.
Congress has the power to avert the strike in this situation because rail strikes are governed by the Railway Labor Act of 1926 instead of the National Labor Relations Act. Congress has the authority to intervene and force the unions to accept the agreement’s terms.
Regardless of the particulars, Biden called on the Senate to move forward with a vote in order to keep the rails running.
“The Senate must now act urgently,” he said. “Without the certainty of a final vote to avoid a shutdown this week, railroads will begin to halt the movement of critical materials like chemicals to clean our drinking water as soon as this weekend.”
The Senate is expected to vote before the end of the week.
“The Senate must move quickly and send a bill to my desk for my signature immediately,” Biden’s statement concludes.