There were no votes in the Senate yesterday. But there were plenty of fireworks. The biggest news of all was Arlen Specter's (R-PA) declaration of war against organized labor (and honor). In 2007 Specter was the only Republican to vote against the Republican filibuster against Employee Free Choice. It didn't do any good because the Democrats only mustered 51 votes, instead of the 60 needed. But one of those votes they needed was the then hospitalized Tim Johnson, a working family supporter from South Dakota who is now ready to vote for Employee Free Choice. And 7 anti-working family Republicans have been replaced by pro-working family Democrats. Instead of Wayne Allard, Colorado elected Mark Udall; Norm Coleman was defeated in Minnesota, although more on that below; Liddy Dole was ousted by Kay Hagan in North Carolina; instead of reactionary Pete Domenici New Mexico has Tom Udall; Oregonians replaced violently anti-labor Gordon Smith with ultra-pro-workers Jeff Merkley; I don't remember if Ted Stevens is in prison or not yet but Mark Begich is the new senator from Alaska; New Hampshire dumped Chamber of Commerce shill John Sununu for Jeanne Shaheen; and Mark Warner replaced John Warner in Virginia.
The math says that if Ted Kennedy is healthy enough to vote and Al Franken gets seated and all the Democrats-- including Evan Bayh's anti-Obama bloc-- all continue to back the bill (even WalMart's cowardly Democrats, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor), then Employee Free Choice passes if Specter sticks to his guns. With today's craven and cowardly announcement by Specter, more worried about his primary challenger from the fringes of the Republican right than about his own dignity or, more important, Pennsylvania working families, the Democrats will either have to put off the vote until after the 2010 election or persuade either Olympia Snowe (R-ME) or retiring George Voinovich (R-OH), neither of whom is a union-hater, to switch their votes.
Actually, there is another possibility-- however implausible. Everyone in Washington-- and Lexington-- knows there's no love lost between vulnerable Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning and Kentucky's other Republican senator, Miss McConnell, and that Bunning has been threatening to retire and let Democratic Governor, Steve Beshear, replace him with a Democrat-- the 60th vote. According to today's Lousiville Courier-Journal that scenario may actually be moving along. Bunning went nuts today (again), complaining that McConnell is sabotaging his efforts to raise money for his re-election battle.
U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning accused Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell again today of trying to derail his fundraising efforts, this time by trying to raise money for his own campaign account just as Bunning is gearing up his own efforts for his race next year.
...Bunning said his decision on whether to stay in the race will probably made in the next three months.
After earlier setting a goal of raising $2 million by the end of June, Bunning has since scaled that back, saying that McConnell and Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, have harmed his fundraising efforts.
The third piece of this puzzle is the Republican Party conspiracy to keep Al Franken from taking his Senate seat. They've helped finance idiotic challenges and a frivolous lawsuit by loser Norm Coleman and today Coleman says he'll appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Coleman and the GOP know he has no chance to win but they just want to delay Franken's seating, in no small part because of Employee Free Choice.
Yep, keeping workers from forming unions is that important to the big money behind the Grand Obstructionist Party. Here's the press release from AFL-CIO President John Sweeney:
Today’s announcement by Sen. Specter-- a sponsor of the original Employee Free Choice Act who voted for cloture in 2007-- is frankly a disappointment and a rebuke to working people, to his own constituents in Pennsylvania and working families around the country.
The fact is the Employee Free Choice Act has more support than ever-- large majorities in both houses of Congress, the President and Vice President, 73 percent of the public. We will continue to work with
Democrats and a number of Republicans to create commonsense solutions to the decades of corporate power.
We do not plan to let a hardball campaign from Big Business derail the Employee Free Choice Act or the dreams of workers.
There are deep flaws in our labor laws, as Sen. Specter acknowledged today. The freedom to join together and bargain with employers for fair wages and better benefits is critical to rebuilding our middle class-- and now is exactly the time to do it, as we begin to revive our economy in a way that works for everyone. In the coming weeks, we will be escalating our campaign and finding the best ways forward to a balanced, strong economy.
Andy Stern, president of the SEIU, had a similar statement today:
In the middle of this economic crisis, passing the Employee Free Choice Act is exactly the right thing to do to give workers the chance to level the playing field. Majority Leader Reid said today, and as even Sen. Specter acknowledges, we need strong labor reform. Now more than ever, America's workers need a choice, free from intimidation and harassment, to bargain for job security, better wages and health care. Our President, Vice President and majorities in both houses of Congress share this goal, and we will not stop in our efforts to achieve it.
In an essay Senator Specter recently wrote for the Harvard Law Review, he states that for people like himself, "finding a practical solution is more important than political posturing." That's why we're dismayed by those who say they support the democratic process, yet refuse to allow meaningful debate and a democratic vote on critical legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act.
It's simple: If you support democracy, you should support the right to debate legislation that could improve the lives of millions of working Americans, pump $49 billion into the economy at a time when we desperately need it, and that's supported by the vast majority of the public.
(Cross-posted at Down With Tyranny.)