At The Hill yesterday, Kevin Bogardus reported that Senator Tom Harkin told a union lobbying group that but for the late Senator Kennedy’s illness, the Senate had 60 votes on a "compromise" draft of EFCA back in July:

“As of July, I can tell you this openly and I know the press is all here but we had worked out a pretty good agreement. Labor was at the table,” Harkin told a crowd of activists organized by American Rights at Work, a labor advocacy group. The activists are set to swarm Capitol Hill Thursday to lobby for the bill.

Harkin said prominent labor leaders were on board with the deal, including AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union.

“That’s when we needed 60 votes and that’s when I called to get Sen. Kennedy down because we needed him for three days. That’s when Dr. Horowitz told me that he couldn’t make it,” Harkin said.

Whether this is merely an encouraging message to an important Democratic constituency, is hard to determine.  And unless and until Massachussets changes its laws to allow Democratic Governor Deval Patrick to appoint a successor, or Kennedy’s seat is filled by a special election early in 2010, it seems unlikely that anything will happen to corroborate the Senator’s claim.  Harkin refused to provide any additional detail about the brokered version of the bill:

“I will not say because it was closely held, it never leaked out and it still hasn’t,” Harkin said. “I took it off the front-burner and put it on the back-burner so it is still on warm, OK?”

However, back in June, Senator Harkin had asserted that he would likely be in position to advance the legislation once Al Franken was seated in the Senate in July; and, not too long before that, Harkin was reportedly in significant discussions to reach consensus on an alternative.

More on these events: