Card Check: The Politics of Who Votes First, Senate or House

By February 23, 2009Labor Unions

The big inside-the-Beltway story last week about the malnamed Employee Free Choice Act reported on the maneuvering about which chamber of Congress should consider the legislation first. The storyline: Leaning more conservative “Blue Dog” House Democrats don’t want to vote on the straight, union-written, destroy-the-secret-ballot version of the Employee Free Choice Act because their constituents hate it. Yet organized labor insists on a yes vote as a matter of fealty and campaign contributions. Thus, Blue Dogs ask leadership to please have the Senate vote first.

This Greg Sargent post at the Washington Post’s Plumline blog captures the story pretty well, “Blue Dogs To House Dem Leaders: Hold Off On Employee Free Choice.”

The reporting was speculative and anonymously sourced. Today, the  D.C. Examiner adds some more in a pretty good round-up piece on the legislation’s prospects, “Union bill a political minefield.”

Some Blue Dogs, particularly those from Southern right-to-work states, want to wait for it to pass the Senate, where it could be softened. The Blue Dogs also want to avoid voting for the bill only to watch it fail in the Senate.

The Senate-first approach, a top Democratic leadership aide said, “is one option, but it has not been decided on.” The aide also said the bill could come up in the House before summer.

But isn’t the House bill going to be introduced within the next month? Political sides will be judged by whether a House member, Blue Dog and otherwise, signs on as a cosponsor, and so this back and forth, Senate vs. House, seems beside the point.

If you’re a cosponsor, you support the bill and face the political consequences, whether the Senate votes first or not.

Our suggestion: Don’t sign on as a cosponsor and do issue a statement of opposition. Merits of the issue aside, that’s the winning political position.

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