Yesterday, Politico suggested that supporters of EFCA might find some renewed sense of optimism as Congress moves beyond the healthcare debate in 2010. That optimism was equally reflected in AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s declaration that the labor movement "will pass EFCA."
Today, however, The Hill is reporting on an interesting legislative strategy development regarding the House of Representatives:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has privately told her politically vulnerable Democratic members that they will not vote on controversial bills in 2010 unless the Senate acts first.
After a year of bruising legislative victories that some political analysts believe have done more to jeopardize her majority than to entrench it, Pelosi is shifting gears for the 2010 election.
Specifically about the impact on EFCA:
Pelosi’s promise could dim the prospects for other White House priorities as well, including the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) — known as “card check” — and the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” prohibition on gays serving openly in the military.
“There’s not going to be a ton of stuff legislatively next year either way,” a House leadership aide said. “But on EFCA — even though the House has demonstrated its ability to pass it — and on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Senate is definitely going to have to act first.”
The House passed EFCA during the last Congress, but members who voted on that bill were well-aware it had no chance to be signed into law by President George W. Bush.
Now, this isn’t a totally new development regarding a "Senate First" approach to EFCA, as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced the likelihood of letting the Senate lead on the issue back in March 2009. Still, bloggers and internet news services on all points of the political spectrum have responded.
NewsMax reports that union leaders are frustrated with the Obama administration:
Congress has shown no urgency to act on the bill that would make it easier for unions to organize: the Employee Free Choice Act.
Even after Congress is done with healthcare, there’s no guarantee it will act on the union bill. That’s because moderate Democrats may oppose it, especially with the 2010 elections looming.
FireDogLake questions the strategy:
It’s true that the House has taken the first bite on a host of bills this year, from education to health care to climate change to financial reform, passing basically a substantial chunk of the Obama agenda, with little to show for it. So the Senate does need to walk the plank every now and again.
But consider the leftover items here – immigration reform, labor law reform (Employee Free Choice Act), gay rights (DOMA and DADT repeal), budgetary issues which include taxes, etc. How broadly do you define a “tough vote”? And what will the House then do while waiting for the Senate to act on all of this?
And some, like Harper’s Magazine‘s Ken Silverstein aren’t placing all of the impetus on either the House or Senate:
Even less convincing is the argument that Obama can’t get anything done because of a weak Democratic congress. Fine, it’s a lousy congress, but the president sets the tone and signals his priorities. As I noted yesterday, Obama was a big backer of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) when on the campaign trail (when he needed union votes). He’s barely mentioned it since taking office, and so that central demand of labor has gone nowhere. That’s not all the fault of Congress.