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‘I love you guys’: Biden gets snarky with reporter for asking why he didn’t negotiate a deal to give rail workers paid sick leave – as Senate votes to avert strike

  • ‘Do the freight rail workers deserve more than one day of paid sick leave … and if so, why didn’t you negotiate for that?’ a reporter asked 
  • ‘I love you guys – I negotiated a congress no one else could negotiate,’ Biden said with a chuckle
  • ‘The only thing that was left out is whether or not there was paid leave. You know I’ve been trying to get paid leave not just for rail workers but for everybody’

President Biden made a snide remark about loving the press when he was asked why he didn’t push harder for paid sick leave for rail workers on Thursday.  

Meanwhile, the Senate voted with an overwhelming 80-15 majority to impose contract terms on four of the eight rail unions that had objected to them, averting a rail strike ahead of the December 9 deadline.

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A reporter asked Biden at a joint press briefing with French President Emmanuel Macron: ‘Do the freight rail workers deserve more than one day of paid sick leave like millions of Americans have, and if so, why didn’t you negotiate for that when you were negotiating that contract that you now want Congress to impose?’

‘I love you guys – I negotiated a congress no one else could negotiate,’ Biden said with a chuckle. 

‘The only thing that was left out is whether or not there was paid leave. You know I’ve been trying to get paid leave not just for rail workers but for everybody.’ 

The resolution will now head to Biden’s desk for signature, though an amendment on paid sick leave will not.

Both chambers of Congress voted to impose a White House-brokered tentative agreement between rail workers and railways that included a 24 percent pay increase, caps on health insurance premiums and safety precautions. Eight of 12 rail unions ratified the deal, but four did not as they objected to the lack of paid leave. Biden’s deal offered one day – they requested 15. 

Biden celebrated the deal’s passing in a statement. 

‘Working together, we have spared this country a Christmas catastrophe in our grocery stores, in our workplaces, and in our communities,’ he said. 

‘I know that many in Congress shared my reluctance to override the union ratification procedures. But in this case, the consequences of a shutdown were just too great for working families all across the country,’ Biden added. 

Biden had long been against congressional intervention in rail union negotiations – in 1992 he was one of six senators who voted against a deal to end a rail strike.  

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The House also passed a bill Wednesday to amend the tentative agreement to include seven paid leave days for rail workers.  

'I love you guys - I negotiated a congress no one else could negotiate,' Biden said with a chuckle

‘I love you guys – I negotiated a congress no one else could negotiate,’ Biden said with a chuckle

The Senate on Wednesday voted to impose the rail bill after voting down the paid leave bill 52-42, failing to breach a 60-vote filibuster. 

All Democrats voted yes except Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and all Republicans voted no except six – Sens. Mike Braun, Ind., Ted Cruz, Texas, Josh Hawley, Mo., John Kennedy, La., and Marco Rubio. 

After Cruz voted for seven paid leave days he walked over to give Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and gave him a fist bump. ‘I always knew you were a socialist,’ Sanders quipped. 

As Biden noted earlier this week, a rail strike would ‘devastate our economy,’ and could put up to 765,000 out of work. The president noted that it could even affect the drinking water and agriculture supply if they weren’t able to access proper chemicals and fertilizer and livestock if they weren’t able to access feed. Businesses the nation over could be forced to shut their doors without access to the supplies they need, and the U.S. economy could lose out on $2 billion per day. 

Commuter railroads and Amtrak would also be affected as they often use tracks owned by freight railroads.  

The September tentative deal, offered a 24 percent pay raise over five years for rail workers, health care benefits with a cost that would not go up and medical leave. Fourteen percent of the raise would be effective immediately. 

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The National Carriers Conference Committee, the group negotiating on behalf of freight railroads, said that by the end of the five years rail workers would be making an average of $110,000.

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