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Counting to 60 on Card Check is No Easy Task

With Al Franken scheduled to be sworn in this week as the 60th Senator who will caucus with Democrats, speculation has exploded about legislative prospects for the card check ploy.

Congressional observers are well-versed on the political pitfalls that have so far stymied card check’s enactment. The plan – which requires union certification without the protection of a secret ballot election and could put federal bureaucrats in charge of wages, benefits, and work rules – has never been able to garner the necessary 60 votes in the U.S. Senate, and in the face of widespread controversy, it hasn’t even been brought up for consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The special interest groups advocating for card check have always viewed Senator-elect Franken’s vote as crucial to enactment of the controversial plan. But various news reports have thrown cold water on the notion that card check is imminent, proving that the elusive 60 votes for this anti-worker plan may not materialize as expected. Roll Call first reported last week that a so-called compromise on the card check plan may not be ready as early as originally expected:  

“Long-stalled legislation to loosen labor-organizing rules likely won’t be introduced next week, as a group of Democratic Senators continues tinkering with a proposal they hope can pass Congressional muster.

“Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who has led the negotiations with a cadre of swing-vote centrists and advocates of the Employee Free Choice Act, said he hoped to introduce a bill shortly after the July Fourth recess. But a Harkin spokeswoman indicated Thursday that the proposal might not be ready by then. …

“Indeed, Harkin spokeswoman Kate Cyrul noted Wednesday that ‘it’s going to be a heavy lift’ to pass the bill, even with the filibuster-proof majority.”

Jessica Brady, “‘Card Check’ Compromise Still Elusive, but Fight Continues to Heat Up,” Roll Call, 07.02.09 

The Hill carried the story as well, explaining why Democrats’ supposedly filibuster-proof majority may be unable to force through such a controversial plan:  

“Democrats have enough votes to pass card-check, and Franken’s vote means Democrats theoretically have the majority to quash a filibuster, which requires 60 votes.

“But on issues as controversial as card-check, the basis of a huge lobbying battle between business and labor, the party can’t count on all 60 votes.

“Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has been working with several colleagues to craft a compromise that would attract enough votes to win the 60 votes necessary to overcome procedural hurdles in the Senate on card-check, formally known as the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

“But business groups show no signs of supporting any compromise, which heaps pressure on centrist Democrats who want to support their party but don’t like the card-check bill.”

Kevin Bogardus, “Five key Senate Democrats on card-check,” The Hill, 07.03.09 

Thankfully for workers, when it comes to card check, counting to 60 is proving to be no easy task.

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