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Will Lincoln Sink Card-Check?

December 17, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

The Employee Free Choice Act is one of those bills that Democrats are hoping to force past a Republican filibuster next year with their expanded majority in the Senate. The bill would allow workers to form unions through a “card-check” system, certifying unions once a majority of employees at a company have signed union authorization cards.

To get the bill through Congress and into law, Democrats will need 60 Senate votes to overcome cloture, which means that every single Senate Democrat plus one or two Republicans (depending on who wins in the Minnesota Senate recount) must vote “aye.” Last year, Republican Arlen Specter (PA) was the only Republican in the Senate to vote with Democrats for the bill, so if Franken is declared the winner in Minnesota, chance are that the votes will be there next year for the Democrats to get 60. Unless, of course, one or more Democrats changes their “aye” vote from last year to a “nay” vote next year.

Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) could be that Senator. Last night the Associated Press reported that her position on the bill has become wrapped up in a competitive re-election race for 2010 in a state that has gone Bush, Bush, McCain in the last decade:

>Sen. Blanche Lincoln says she doesn’t think federal legislation that would allow labor organizations to unionize workplaces without secret-ballot elections is necessary. But in an interview with The Associated Press today, Lincoln gave herself room to support the measure if it’s brought up later.
>Business and labor groups are pressuring the Democratic senator from Arkansas for support either way. Tim Griffin, a potential challenger to the senator’s 2010 re-election bid, has said her stand could be an issue in the race.

Marc Ambinder, citing the same article, interprets this as Lincoln “formally [opposing]” the bill, but I don’t think it’s as simple as that. To me, saying that the bill is not “necessary” means that she probably won’t push for its passage, but that she probably won’t obstruct its passage either. And there just happens to be a parliamentary procedure she could follow that reflects those sentiments perfectly.

Like she did last year, Lincoln could vote “aye” on the cloture motion to bring the bill to the floor for debate, and she could also vote “aye” on the cloture motion to end a Republican filibuster and bring the bill to a final vote. Those are the two crucial votes that require a 60-vote majority to pass. The actually vote on passage of the bill is decided by a simple majority vote; Lincoln could vote “nay” then for political coverage while still helping Democrats pass the bill.

There’s going to be a lot of lobbying on this bill before it comes to a vote, and it sounds like Lincoln’s position could change. Wal-Mart, which has its headquarters in Lincoln’s state, has been vehemently opposed to the bill. Their influence on Lincoln could be huge. Then again, if the bill’s passage rests soley on Lincoln’s vote, being the black sheep of the Democratic party isn’t going to help her much in 2010 either.

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