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After the House votes to avert a rail strike, the bill heads to the Senate

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In this country, the House of Representatives has acted to prevent a railroad strike. The House passed two bills. One would force railroad unions to accept a tentative labor deal negotiated by the Biden administration. The second would give rail workers seven days of paid sick leave. NPR's Ximena Bustillo reports.

XIMENA BUSTILLO, BYLINE: The Senate today is negotiating an effort to avert a railroad strike, but the Biden administration is urging lawmakers to not delay the passage of the bill that forces the agreement, even if that means leaving workers without sick leave. The sick leave measure was added by House Democrats following concerns from both lawmakers and worker advocates. Advocates have been asking for a paid sick leave policy that can allow workers to take time off to be put in the contract. The contract negotiated by the Biden administration did not include this, so some unions rejected the agreement, creating the threat that all railroads will strike as soon as December 9. But the president wants to see a bill by the weekend, according to press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. Here she is discussing the president's position on what the House passed.

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KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: The president, of course - he supports paid sick leaves (ph) for all Americans, including rail workers, but he does not support any bill or amendment that will delay getting this bill to his desk by this Saturday. And he's been very clear about that.

BUSTILLO: Jean-Pierre later added that they do not believe the Senate has the 60 votes needed to pass the paid sick leave portion of the effort. Since the two bills are voted on separately, lawmakers could pass one and fail to pass the other. But some Republicans and progressives are united in opposing any effort that leaves out sick pay. One lawmaker is Senator Bernie Sanders, who is trying to get a coalition of bipartisan senators to back the paid sick leave effort. Here he is speaking on the Senate floor.

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BERNIE SANDERS: Do we stand with workers in the rail industry and say, yes, you are right? Working conditions are horrendous. We cannot continue a process by which you have zero paid sick leave.

BUSTILLO: Senators are expected to get a visit from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh today as they work to put the measure up for a vote. Ximena Bustillo, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.