Kevin Bogardus reports in TheHill.com that Democratic leaders in the House and Senate may have the upper chamber strike first on a controversial labor bill, which would protect conservative Blue Dog Democrats from a tough vote.
The House voted first in 2007 on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which business groups refer to as “card-check” legislation, and it was expected the House would vote first this year as well.
The bill has more than enough votes to pass the House, but faces a difficult road in the Senate, where Democrats fall just short of a filibuster-proof majority.
Blue Dog Democrats in the House have shown tepid support so far for the legislation, which is the subject of an all-out lobbying war between business and labor. Many have faced tough questions about the legislation from constituents, who have been blitzed with a business advertising campaign.
“I do think the legislation has got to start in the Senate because it has already passed in the House,” said Rep. Parker Griffith (D-Ala.). “There is no point in bringing up the legislation if they don’t have the votes in the Senate.”
“It’s my understanding [that] the Senate is going to act first on it. They may change it,” said Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.). “When they act, we can talk about it. What I think about the current bill may be irrelevant.”
One business lobbyist said a number of Blue Dogs have expressed concerns that the bill would be a tough sell back in their districts and have heard from employees themselves who are opposed it.
“The Blue Dogs don’t want to be put to a vote on this if it changes or dies in the Senate,” said a business lobbyist. “The current dynamics have changed. Their vote would be for real now.”
Businesss groups would see a Senate-first strategy as an early victory for their lobbying campaign.
A union official said the debate over strategy revolves around whether an initial House vote would help raise Senate support.
“There isn’t any doubt in anyone’s mind that we have a substantial majority in the House and it will pass when the Speaker brings it up,” said a union official. “Now the question is, will that lead to 60 votes in the Senate or not? That is what is being discussed right now.”
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said members are considering taking up EFCA first in the Senate because that is where the challenge for the bill lies.
“We can pass the bill,” Miller said of the House. He said the strategy was not related to concerns from Blue Dogs or other members.
Miller, a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said the move is not a sign of discord behind the scenes. “We’re not having defections. There’s no problem here,” he said.
He also said the decision had not been finalized but was under serious consideration.
“I feel the decision has already been pretty well made. We have had discussions about it,” said Miller, although he added that House and Senate leaders have yet to sign off on the strategic move.
A Senate leadership aide said no decision has been made, and a House leadership aide said Obama administration officials are also participating in the talks on when and where to introduce the bill.
The bill is not moving forward as quickly this year as it did in the last Congress.
Read more about the “Employee Free Choice Act” or “Card Check” here in the DDIFO Newsroom:
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