Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, says he won’t take any action on the controversial card check bill –– titled the Employee Free Choice Act –– until Minnesota Democrat Al Franken is sworn in as senator, Politico reports.
Harkin, the lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate, made the comment Wednesday on the theory that he would be able to avert a Republican filibuster against it if Franken is awarded the legally snared seat.
Although union workers are lobbying for the measure, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups are ramping up efforts to defeat it.
As far back as February, Harkin told the Las Vegas Sun after a rally supporting the labor bill that, as soon as “we swear Franken in, this will be one of the first things we take up.”
Franken, however, is involved in a two-month legal fight in the Minnesota Supreme Court to resolve an election recount battle with Republican Norm Coleman that found the two candidates just 312 votes apart. When or if Franken is certified, he could give the Democrats the 60 votes needed in the Senate to pass the controversial bill.
Harkin has put off bringing the card check legislation to the floor of the Senate until the court resolves the issue. The bill, which will make it easier for workers to unionize through open-ballot elections, has quickly become one of the most heated pieces of legislation of the new session in Congress.
The bill easily passed the House in 2007 but hasn’t been able to get through the Senate.
Harkin felt it again did not have enough votes to pass earlier this spring, due to it being opposed on a nearly party-line. However, rogue Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, who originally opposed any bill that includes the open-ballot rule, switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party in April and has since been privately discussing the bill with Harkin.
Harkin said he expects to put the card check bill up for vote next month and credits Specter, Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., with crafting a compromise.
Politico reported that on Tuesday, Harkin included AFL-CIO legislative director Bill Samuel in the talks, indicating progress is being made.
“We’re in meetings right now,” Harkin said. "I’m still hopeful that we can get something done.”
Reportedly excluded from the closed-door talks were Sens. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., RedState.com reported sources as saying. Harkin also will need their support to avoid a filibuster.
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