Monday, June 1, 2009

Reader Comment

A reader writes:
So here's what I think is going to happen:

A committee of conservative Democrats (Feinstein - CA, Specter - PA, Pryor - AR) is now meeting regularly to come up with a compromise that will get them 59 cloture votes. This will most likely include at least some of the following: baseball-style arbitration instead of gov't-appointed arbitrator with creative powers, mail-in ballot instead of card-check/majority signup, stiffer penalties for ULP's (unfair labor practices), and an accelerated election calendar. When Al Franken gets seated to make it 60 votes for cloture, conservative Democrats draw straws to see which 10 of them get to take the low road and vote against the bill or not vote at all.
Then Labor will decide what companies, like WalMart, are still viable targets to organize under the new law.
As the saying goes, the devil is in the details, and I think the detail here is going to be cloture votes. As a former foil of mine once said, "Getting in the meeting is easy. It's the meeting before the meeting, where the decisions are made, that's the tough invite." I think his words are especially instructive in this case.

From reading the news and what few whispers I get from the Hill, it's safe to say that negotiations along the lines of this reader's description are taking place. All these compromises sound like concessions labor could live with, and might be proposing. But before this group meets, there are the innumerable meetings with business lobbyists, and I still believe a lot of this will come down to which side can exert the most leverage. I've seen nothing that would lead me to believe that labor can exert more pressure than business, or that labor's willing to exert as much pressure as business.

I think there are senators, and I think Specter is one of them, that are actually looking for a compromise of sorts. In a blue state like PA, where even in Specter's heart of hearts he's got to suspect that this will be his last race, he can afford to agree to a compromise of sorts, or put differently, he will probably negotiate in good faith.

But, for every Specter there's a Blanche Lincoln, and she's not voting for cloture. She's expressed huge concerns over the bill's two primary provisions and hails from a state that Obama didn't win. I've seen nothing she's said (or even in the subtext of what she's said) that makes me think that she's voting for cloture on this bill. The same could be said of Pryor, who's been less adamant in his opposition, but no where close to an active supporter. It's critical to remember, that if you lose one of those two, 60 votes is gone as things stand now. Are there any Republicans in those meetings my commenter mentioned? Maybe Collins and Snowe. Maybe Voinovich. All three have either voted against it previously, gone on record opposing it or both. And what if you can't get either of the Arkansas duo to come around? Now you need two of those three. We haven't even discussed Nelson or Bayh yet. You'd have to give them an arm and a leg to give you a cloture vote, and that's if you somehow made it to 58-59. Now that I think about it, that might be a clever way of describing the problem. There are 10 moderate Dems that would be happy to give you the 60th vote, but none a single damned one of them will give you the 59th.

In summation, I think my reader's take is dead on, I just don't think those discussions will yield 60 cloture votes in this Congress. I think the one thing that might conceivably shift the current balance is an aggressive push by President Obama, but there's no indication he sees labor issues as a high priority, or that labor is interested in trying to make him.

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