Even With Sen. Franken, Employee Free Choice Act Is Stuck

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The arrival of Al Franken is encouraging supporters of the Employee Free Choice Act, but the bill remains stuck in the Senate. Franken has signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill and announced as much to cheers at an AFL-CIO event in his honor on Tuesday night. But the problem that's plagued the bill for months still remains: 60 Democrats don't support it and the Republicans are determined to filibuster the measure, which has united the business community like nothing else in recent memory. Among those Democratic Senate votes still trying to be nailed down are Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Arlen Specter, Jim Webb and Mark Warner of Virginia, Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Dianne Feinstein has been less than enthusiastic about the proposal, which is sometimes called Card Check. No Republicans are backing the bill. Chuck Schumer of New York and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are trying to find a compromise that can get the 60 votes. With Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy in ailing health, the proposition is even dicier.

I'm always appreciative of any tips or things you might be hearing about the bill's fate, or your thoughts on why you think it might or might not be good policy.

I offered an argument for the measure earlier this year in the now defunct Conde Nast Portfolio. The bill, then and now, struck me as a modest measure that would probably arrest the decline in union membership, which has been going on for decades. At the moment only 7.5 percent of private sector employees belong to a union, and EFCA would probably give that a charge, though no one can be entirely sure of what the bill would actually do to union membership.

But now, anything that passes is likely to involve compromise that will weaken the impact of the bill further. One labor source tells me that "something" is likely to pass this year but it won't be the original measure that business seems to be able to kill despite the Democrats having 60 votes.

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Matthew Cooper is a managing editor (White House) for National Journal.

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