President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the on-going conflict at the Ukraine/Russia border, Tuesday, February 15, 2022, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. Credit: Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith

After delivering a speech on Monday to revive his “cancer moonshot,” a mission to end the disease, President Biden addressed other parts of his ever-crowded political agenda, none more pressing than the Democrats holding on to Congress as the midterm elections loom.

“We learn enough from their experience as patients and we don’t share enough data and knowledge,” Biden said about cancer, a disease he is quite familiar with having lost his son, Beau, to brain cancer. “The goal is to cut cancer death rates by at least 50% …in the next 25 years.”

That’s his long-range “moonshot,” and more immediate is heading off a potential strike by railroad workers that could happen by Friday and deal a devastating blow to the economy, including another round of supply chain delays.

Biden is bringing several significant team members to the table to avert the stoppage—Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, and Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture. A White House official said that a shutdown of the freight rail system is “an unacceptable outcome of our economy and the American people” and the administration has “made that clear emphatically and repeatedly to all parties involved.”

While most of the unions, including IBEW and the Teamsters, have settled with the railroads, two—SMART and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET)—have not, and they represent half of the railroad union workers. Attendance policies and disciplinary procedures against workers are at the core of the dispute. The union is angered that workers are being terminated when they have medical appointments and bereavement issues.

On the other hand, the railroads claim the workers are using such claims to extend longer weekends to attend concerts and sporting events. Biden has already put in place an Emergency Board to mitigate the differences and it triggered a “cooling off” phase that ends this Friday.

If no agreement is reached, the companies could lock out workers before a strike is called, thereby casting the blame on the workers for the shutdown that would cost the economy $2 billion a day. An option to settlement could occur if Congress steps in with a joint resolution acceptable by the companies.

Such an arrangement may add to the Democrats’ problems during the midterm elections, that Biden is determined to hold. He has promised to keep a “veto pen” poised to offset the arrival of the GOP’s dominance. At this time in the election cycle, the Republicans appear to have the votes to take over the House, though they may not have the 60 votes needed in the Senate to pass most bills.

Biden continues to get a bundle of bad news.

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