President Joe Biden on Friday signed legislation to avert a rail shutdown after congressional lawmakers raced to pass the measure amid concerns over the economic danger posed by a possible strike.
Biden said in remarks ahead of the signing that the bill “ends a difficult rail dispute and helps our nation avoid what without a doubt would have been an economic catastrophe.”
“Our nation’s rail system is literally the backbone of our supply chain,” Biden said. “A rail shutdown would have devastated our economy.”
Without congressional action, a rail strike could have become a reality as early as December 9, causing shortages, spiking prices and halting factory production. It could also have disrupted commuter rail services for up to seven million travelers a day and the transportation of 6,300 carloads of food and farm products a day, among other items, according to a collection of business groups.
“Thanks to the bill Congress passed … we’ve spared the country that catastrophe,” Biden said.
One complication in the effort to pass a bill had been a push by progressives to add a provision to the agreement related to paid sick leave. And on Thursday, the Senate failed to pass the House-passed paid sick leave measure backed by progressives.
Biden acknowledged the failure to pass the provision, but vowed to keep pushing for paid sick leave in his remarks Friday.
“Look, I know this bill doesn’t have paid sick leave that these rail workers and frankly every worker in America deserves. But that fight isn’t over,” he said. “I’ve supported paid sick leave for a long time and I’m going to continue that fight until we succeed.”
Biden thanked congressional Democrats as well as Republicans for passing the legislation. “It was the right thing to do,” he said, “to save jobs, to protect millions of working families from harm and disruption and to keep supply chains stable around the holidays.”
This story has been updated with additional details.