Diary

Specter's Switch Breathes New Life into Card Check

Yesterday Arlen Specter said that despite his switch to the Democratic party, he would not be changing his position on Card Check. It doesn’t seem as if Card Check backers are taking him seriously though. Despite his comments yesterday – which were widely portrayed as a strong statement against the bill – they’re pushing harder than ever:

But [Specter] left himself some wiggle room when he announced his opposition to the bill in March by outlining revisions he says could improve it and gain his support…

Specter has said that he doesn’t support replacing the election process and that the arbitration section would have to be significantly changed to win his support.

But he’s also voiced sympathy with the concerns that labor leaders are trying to address through the legislation. If a deal can be struck, it could well address similar concerns raised by several moderate Democrats and clear the way for passage.

But labor leaders say negotiations will intensify and a breakthrough would carry big political dividends for the Democrats’ newest darling.

“He has indicated to the labor movement that he was willing to review some modification in the present bill and to give reconsideration to the bill,” said Bill George, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO boasts 1.7 million members and supporters. The Teamsters have 80,000. The Service Employees International Union has nearly 50,000. And the teachers have thousands more.

Even Specter acknowledged Tuesday that: “You can’t win an election in Pennsylvania without labor.”

But George notes that while Specter’s 68 percent voting record on labor issues is pretty good for a Republican, the average of the Keystone State’s Democratic caucus is about 85 percent.

According to Eileen Connelly, executive director of SEIU’s state council, union members already had a field operation knocking on Republican doors and urging voters to call Specter and ask him to support the legislation.

Now, she said, they will start knocking on Democratic doors and get them to put pressure on him.

Specter had promised to oppose Card Check, and he says that position won’t change. But his opposition pointedly did not extend to a bad Card Check compromise – which is exactly what seems to be in the offing. Lobbyists working against the bill now tell me that Labor is preparing to accept the compromise that people have been speculating about for months – one that would delete the provision to eliminate the secret ballot, and retain the mandatory arbitration provisions. If and when Al Franken is seated in the Senate, Democrats will have 60 votes – enough to break a filibuster.

This half-measure would impose dramatic new costs on businesses, hamper their ability to innovate, and give unions far more clout in labor negotiations. It would destroy jobs in the U.S. and chase jobs offshore. It’s a terrible bill. But Arlen Specter needs to prove that he is a loyal Democrat. And as he says, it’s hard to win a race in Pennsylvania without the support of labor. Is there any way Specter doesn’t support a Card Check compromise?

Update: A friend who follows Card Check very closely sent me this video. What can I say? I hope Rendell is right: