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Specter to Support Cloture on Card Check

08.16.09

Specter to Support Cloture on Card Check

By Matthew Murray
Roll Call Staff

http://www.rollcall.com/news/37775-1.html

Recent party switcher Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) will vote to cut off debate on a forthcoming Employee Free Choice Act compromise, the lawmaker confirmed Friday following his appearance at the Netroots Nation convention in Pittsburgh.

“I expect the cloture vote to occur on a modified version of the [EFCA] legislation,” Specter said in a statement. “And I will support that cloture vote.”

Specter’s pledge to support a yet-to-be-introduced “card check” compromise, which is still being negotiated, comes after he told the crowd that he supports having up-or-down votes — without explicitly naming the EFCA compromise legislation.

Specter said he generally expects “to support [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid [D-Nev.] on a bill he wants to bring up,” before citing his vote last Congress on previous card-check legislation.

“That was illustrated by when there were 49 Republican Senators a couple of years ago and the Employee Free Choice Act came up [and] I was the sole Republican who voted for cloture, so we could take up the bill,” Specter said. “Legislation ought to be considered by the Senate.”

Specter’s announcement comes as he faces a bloody 2010 primary fight against Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), who is running to the ideological left of the five-term Senator and questioning his Democratic bona fides.

Before Specter bolted the GOP in April, he had said he would not support the card-check bill this Congress, saying during a highly publicized floor speech on March 24 that he would not cast the deciding vote to cut off debate on the contentious legislation

“The problems of the recession would make this a particularly bad time to enact the Employee Free Choice Act. Employers understandably complain that adding such a burden would result in further job losses,” Specter said on the Senate floor earlier this year. “Knowing that I will not support cloture on this bill, Senators may choose to move on and amend the [National Labor Relations Act] as I have suggested or otherwise. This announcement should end the rumor mill that I have made some deal for my political advantage.”

He later softened his stance on the bill, saying he would be open to a compromise on the measure that makes it easier for employees to join unions.

Earlier this summer, Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) began a series of closed-door negotiations with fence-sitters like Specter and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), whose home state is headquarters to the massive nonunionized retailer Wal-Mart.

The business community expressed concern Friday with Specter’s announcement, as well as with how a potential compromise deal is being hatched.

“We’re very concerned with the comments made by Sen. Specter,” said Keith Smith, director of employment and labor policy at the National Association of Manufacturers. “It’s very concerning that such a jobs-killing piece of legislation is being hatched out through these nontransparent discussions with a small group of Senators.

“Of all the discussion items that we’ve seen, the provisions of a potential alternative version of this bill are just as onerous as the current provisions of the Employee Free Choice Act itself,” he added.

While the business community fumed in the wake of Specter’s announcement, a labor coalition spokesman said in an e-mail that “clearly it’s a positive sign.”

“The Senator is heeding the calls of working families who want to see real labor law reform this year so the economy can work for everyone,” American Rights at Work spokesman Josh Goldstein said.

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