President Biden contradicted White House officials on Thursday, claiming not to have been directly in touch with either side in the looming national rail-road strike.
Biden told reporters in Nantucket, Massachusetts that negotiations between unions representing railroad workers and their employers were ongoing. The president added that since the talks were ongoing, he himself had not engaged directly with any of the parties.
“My team has been in touch with all the parties, in rooms with the parties,” said Biden. “I have not directly engaged yet because they’re still talking.”
Biden’s remarks contradict those of White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who said earlier this week that Biden was “directly involved” in the negotiations.
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“The president is indeed involved directly,” said Jean-Pierre. “I don’t want to get into the details at this time, but he has been involved. He remains focused on protecting America’s families.”
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Earlier this week, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) rejected a tentative agreement with the nation’s major freight railroads. The union’s decision has raised prospects of a nationwide railroad strike that could seriously impact the economy ahead of the holiday season.
Administration officials have been scrambling to find a compromise to avert the strike. At least one union official involved in the negotiations has suggested that Biden has been largely absent from negotiations.
Jean-Pierre dismissed such talk, however, during a White House press conference on Tuesday.
“This is the third time I’m saying he’s been directly involved,” Jean-Pierre said. “You’re talking about one union president. There are 12. You’re talking about one.”
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“He has been directly involved,” she said when pressed by reporters. “I’m not going to get into more details on that, but you’re talking about one president out of 12.”