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U.S. Congress moves to avert rail strike

STORY: Congress on Thursday gave final approval to a bill blocking a potentially devastating U.S. railroad strike…

while rejecting a measure that would have provided paid sick days to railroad workers.

“On this vote the yays are 80, the nays are 15 (flash) the joint resolution is passed.”

The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to impose a tentative contract deal reached in September on a dozen unions representing 115,000 workers, who could have gone on strike on Dec. 9.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the bill to block a strike on Wednesday and separately voted to require seven days of paid sick leave for rail workers. A measure the senate rejected on Thursday.

U.S. President Joe Biden praised the move to avert the strike—saying the country had been spared “a Christmas catastrophe “

But under the tentative deal – which will now be enforced -- there are no paid short-term sick days.

Unions asked for 15 during negotiations. Railroads settled on one personal day.

A fact Biden defended when asked during a joint news conference Thursday with French President Emmanuel Macron:

BIDEN: “I think we're going to get it done, but not within this agreement. And within this agreement, we're going to avoid the rail strike, keep the rails running, keep things moving. And I'm going to go back and we're going to get paid leave not just for rail workers, but for all workers.”

The sick leave measure was 8 votes shy of the required 60-vote supermajority in the Senate and was not endorsed by the White House.

Biden has praised the proposed contract, which includes a 24% compounded pay increase over five years and five annual $1,000 lump-sum payments, and he had asked Congress to impose the contract without any modifications.

The bill now goes to Biden, who will sign it into law.