As I wrote a couple of days ago, some of those arguing for a compromise aren't doing so in good faith. I disagree with Buetler's assertion that Blanche Lincoln "...may ultimately need union support to prevail." Right now, there are no serious obstacles to her reelection, and a strong argument can be made that the only way a strong challenge emerges is if she flops on EFCA. She's garnered the tacit support of the Arkansas business establishment, and knows labor's not strong enough to derail her.
It's still my belief that for every compromise that gets made for an up-and-down vote, another Senator will appear from the ether to declare their previously unspoken concern to one provision or another. This whip count from Politico is a couple months old, but there's uncertainty all over that board, even with former sponsors.
Harkin's threat is idle. The inertia to wait for the next Congress will become unstoppable, especially once the environmental and health care talks progress. Forcing an EFCA vote would alienate the exact moderate Senate Dems whose support will be needed to pass the signature items on Obama's agenda.
The only factor that could change any of this is labor's response to their signature issue being put on the back-burner. Labor's die has yet to be cast, and they might have the power to influence that aforementioned inertia, though I think a lot of the paths before them are risky.
I actually think a meaningful corollary can be drawn between what's happening to labor and what's happening to the LGBT community, where the 'right time' to advance their respective agendas is always tomorrow. The powers of both support and opposition to those agendas are quite different, but the similarities in the dynamic are worth noting.
I know those last couple of paragraphs are a bit cryptic, but I hope to engage the strategic options labor has moving forward over the course of the next day or two.
Update: This quote from a Politico article today belies my point about the soft support for EFCA in the Democratic caucus:
But finding that magical middle ground won’t be easy: Business groups have already rejected compromise proposals floated by Specter last week. They also question whether Harkin and Specter are consulting all of the key moderate Democrats whose votes will be critical to overcome a Republican filibuster.