Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told Newsmax on Wednesday that he will likely not vote in the Senate for the House-approved railroad workers strike intervention bill passed.
"In a tradition of what I did in 1991, the last time Congress was involved in something similar, I would vote to impose the Presidential Emergency Board recommendations, which is what [President Joe Biden] did in late September," Grassley said during "Rob Schmitt Tonight" on Wednesday. "I would vote for Congress to impose that, but I would not want to vote for anything else other than that. Like, for instance, what the House of Representatives did by imposing some things that hadn't been agreed to between labor and management."
In an attempt to hold off a possibly devastating national railroad strike, that Grassley estimates would cost the economy $2 billion per week, the House passed a bill Wednesday 290-137, including 79 Republicans voting for the measure, that would force railroad workers to accept a contract previously agreed to in September by management and union heads raising pay and giving workers more flexibility in their schedules, The New York Times reported.
"This overwhelming bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives makes clear that Democrats and Republicans agree that a rail shutdown would be devastating to our economy and families across the country," The Times reported Biden saying in a statement. "The Senate must now act urgently."
Republican Senate members, however, do not seem to be as quick to pass the bill.
Because of the impact to interstate commerce, Congress has the authority to intervene in the dispute and did so last in 1991 during the administration of former President George H.W. Bush, which stopped a strike less than 24 hours after it started, The Times reported at the time.
"We are here to safeguard the financial security of America's families, to protect American economy as it continues to recover and avert a devastating, nationwide rail shutdown," The Times reported House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying on the floor of the House Wednesday. "A nationwide rail shutdown would be catastrophic — a shutdown would grind our economy to a halt, and every family would feel the strain."
Grassley said that four of the 12 workers' unions involved voted down the September agreement brokered by Biden, but he is not comfortable with Congress directly intervening in negotiations between labor and management.
"I just don't want the government interfering in negotiations," he said. "But in the case where we have provisions in law for government to step in — and in this particular instance, because it would be a national economic catastrophe if we have that strike — we've had precedent for it. And I'm in favor of us adopting the recommendations of board, but not going beyond that. When I say Congress shouldn't go beyond that, [it] doesn't mean that on these things, like paid time off or sickness, those things can still be negotiated between the unions and the railroads even though we've adopted this resolution."
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