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Most railroad workers weren't surprised that Congress intervened this week to block a railroad strike, but they were disappointed because they say the deals lawmakers imposed didn't do enough to address their quality of life concerns about demanding schedules and the lack of paid sick time. Railroad workers face difficult tradeoffs that sometimes force them to skip doctor's appointments or miss family events. The railroads acknowledge that more needs to be done to address workers' “work-life balance concerns," but managers believe these new contracts should help create more predictable schedules. And the five-year deals include 24% raises and $5,000 in bonuses.

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Distaste for Herschel Walker appears to be bolstering Democratic enthusiasm for Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia's Tuesday runoff. Criticism of Walker is often top-of-mind for Warnock supporters. They frequently say they believe Walker is in over his head, lured into the race by former President Donald Trump or other Republicans. Republicans voters are more likely to say they're motivated by dislike of President Joe Biden’s administration and Warnock’s support of Biden’s policies. Warnock and other Democrats have been playing up the idea that Walker could disgrace Georgia. Even some Walker voters say they are uneasy about his qualifications and past acts.

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The Supreme Court says the Biden administration program to cancel student loans will remain blocked for now, but the justices have agreed to take up the case in late winter. The court’s decision to hear arguments relatively quickly means it is likely to determine whether the widespread loan cancellations are legal by late June. That’s about two months before the newly extended pause on loan repayments is set to expire. The administration had wanted a court order that would have allowed the program to take effect even as court challenges proceed. But as a fallback, it suggested the high court hold arguments and decide the issue.

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Former President Barack Obama, left, greets Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., right, before Obama speaks during a rally on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, in Atlanta. Warnock is running against Republican Herschel Walker in a runoff election. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

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Legislation to avert a freight rail strike in the United States is headed to President Joe Biden's desk. A bill to avoid the strike won final approval Thursday, clearing the Senate in a bipartisan vote. The bill will bind rail companies and workers to a proposed settlement that was reached between the rail companies and union leaders in September. That settlement had been rejected by four of the 12 unions involved, creating the possibility of a strike. The Senate vote was 80-15 and came one day after the House voted to impose the agreement. Biden has vowed to sign it quickly.

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Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaks during a rally on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, in Atlanta. Warnock is running against Republican Herschel Walker in a runoff election.(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

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A proposed referendum aimed at restricting foreign government influence on Maine elections has enough signatures to appear on the 2023 ballot. The secretary of state’s office said Thursday that validated 67,550 signatures. That means that the proposal will go to the Maine Legislature for considering. If it isn’t passed by lawmakers, then it would go to state voters in November. The proposal was spurred by the costliest referendum in state history — a proposal to stop a power line in western Maine — in which Canada’s Hydro Quebec was one of the big donors.

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FILE - Freight train cars sit in a Norfolk Southern rail yard on Sept. 14, 2022, in Atlanta. The Biden administration is saying the U.S. economy would face a severe economic shock if senators don't pass legislation this week to avert a rail worker strike. The administration is delivering that message personally to Democratic senators in a closed-door session Thursday, Dec. 1. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik, File)

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FILE - Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, center, speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington, May 16, 2022, as Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, left, and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan, right, listen. The Biden administration is saying the U.S. economy would face a severe economic shock if senators don't pass legislation this week to avert a rail worker strike. Walsh and Buttigieg are meeting with Democratic senators Thursday, Dec. 1, to underscore that rail companies will begin shuttering operations well before a potential strike begins on Dec. 9. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

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FILE - Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh speaks before President Joe Biden at a United Steel Workers of America Labor Day event in West Mifflin, Pa., just outside Pittsburgh, Sept. 5, 2022. The Biden administration is saying the U.S. economy would face a severe economic shock if senators don't pass legislation this week to avert a rail worker strike. Walsh and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg are meeting with Democratic senators Thursday, Dec. 1, to underscore that rail companies will begin shuttering operations well before a potential strike begins on Dec. 9. (AP Photo/Rebecca Droke, File)