Looming Rail Strikes Threaten Economy 

Congress has a new “to do” item:

“I am calling on Congress to pass legislation immediately to adopt the Tentative Agreement between railroad workers and operators – without any modifications or delay – to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown.”  (President Joe Biden)

Last night, President Biden asked Congress to step in and avert a potential railroad workers strike.  Several unions have rejected a tentative deal reached before the midterm elections – raising the threat that a strike could begin in early December.  That could cause immediate and significant harm to the economy:

  • The railroads estimated that a rail strike would cost the economy $2 billion a day in a report issued earlier this fall.  (The Association of American Railroads).
  • An estimated that 467,000 additional trucks a day would be needed to handle everything railroads deliver.  “Currently, neither the trucks nor the truck drivers necessary to meet this demand are available.”  (The Association of American Railroads).
  • There is already a shortage of approximately 80,000 truck drivers.  (American Trucking Association)

Speaker Pelosi has indicated the House will act this week.  Legislation to adopt the tentative agreement will likely pass the House with significant bipartisan support.  This is a tougher vote for Democrats, but President Biden has made the request.  The Senate will also likely have the 60 votes needed, but the Senate moves slower and the legislation could take up some floor time next week.  Time is not something Congress has a lot of at this point in the session. 

Progress on an omnibus spending bill remains slow.  Almost everyone acknowledges that it is unlikely that a full year Omnibus spending bill will be ready by the December 16th deadline when government funding runs out.  Staff are being advised not to make holiday travel plans that can’t be changed.  Negotiators still have settled on “topline” numbers – a critical step in the process.  No one expects or wants a government shutdown – Congress will likely pass a one or two-week continuing resolution to keep the government open while negotiations continue.  But much work remains – negotiations, drafting, whipping, etc – if a full year spending bill is to be completed before the end of the 117th Congress. 


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