With a railroad strike a possibility in the coming days, Mr. Biden turned to Congress to intervene. He stressed his reluctance to defy the will of union workers seeking basic rights at work, but said there was a need to address the threat of economic disaster created by a disruption in the country’s rail system and an inability to get goods and services moving quickly to transport, could be caused the country.
At a White House news briefing on Thursday, Mr. Biden balked at why he didn’t insist on more paid furlough for railroad workers in the deal, saying he had “negotiated a deal no one else can negotiate.” He said he will continue to fight for paid vacations for all Americans.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats also said they preferred not to get caught in the middle of a railroad labor dispute, which Congress has done 18 times in the past century. They complained that they were being asked to make a deal that went against workers’ demands. Urging to address those concerns, Biden dispatched Martin J. Walsh, the Secretary of Labor, and Pete Buttigieg, the Secretary of Transportation, to the Capitol on Thursday to meet with Democratic senators during a private lunch before the vote.
“The consequences of inaction would be grave,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and Majority Leader. He went through a list of what he described as “serious problems that would arise if the railroad stopped.”
Republicans, too, resented the position they’d been placed in and questioned why Mr. Biden hadn’t given Biden a few more days to settle the dispute before involving Congress.
To allay concerns from both parties and expedite action by the Senate, leaders agreed to first consider the GOP proposal for a cooling-off period and the House-passed proposal to add paid leave.
“Less than 36 hours ago we were asked to make decisions without necessary consideration on complicated and important matters,” said Senator Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican who supported the deadline extension. He said his move would “give negotiators more time to reach an agreement and not make Congress the last resort in these types of negotiations.”