Boehner Card Checks Democrats in Cleveland Speech

It's a favorite bill for Republicans to criticize: the Employee Free Choice Act, with its provision known as "card check"--legislation that would eliminate employers' ability to demand a secret-ballot election during the union-forming process, thereby streamlining the process of union organizing.

President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards all pledged support for the bill as presidential candidates, and Obama has reiterated his support since taking office. It enjoys the support of almost every Democrat in the Senate and the harsh opposition of almost every Republican.

As he delivered his speech on the economy today at the City Club of Cleveland, House Minority Leader John Boehner portrayed it as a prime item on the Democratic wish list:

President Obama should announce that he will veto any job-killing bills sent to his desk by a lame-duck Congress - including 'card check,' a national energy tax, and any other tax increases on families and small businesses...

Also pending is 'card check.'  This bill is the top priority for the public-sector unions that provide the money and foot soldiers for Democratic campaigns.

It eliminates a worker's right to a secret ballot in union elections, making it easier for unions to organize while putting employers at a firm disadvantage.  Card check is essentially a 'how-to' guide for destroying small business jobs.

When I asked the president about his support for 'card check' during our meeting last month, he accused me of scare tactics, while the rest of the Democratic Leaders in the room acted like they didn't know what I was talking about. 

The very next week, the president told a union crowd he will 'keep on fighting' for 'card check.'

Democratic Leaders refuse to rule out the possibility of forcing these job-killing bills through in a lame-duck session, after the election, after the voters have had their say.

Boehner is right in pointing out that Democrats support the bill; he also perhaps embellishes its place in the Democratic agenda.

It's been apparent for some time that the Employee Free Choice Act doesn't, at present, have the votes it needs to pass Congress, at least in the form Boehner is talking about. The House passed it in 2007, and it gained 51 votes in the Senate soon after. When Democrats expanded their Senate majority to 60 after Arlen Specter's party switch in 2008, labor still lacked the vote of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (a big reason why unions spent millions of dollars backing her primary challenger, Lt. Gov Bill Halter, this year), and thus EFCA's supporters were extremely close to, but could not reach, the needed 60 votes to bring EFCA to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote.

Specter, who had voted to bring it to a vote in 2007, later gave a Senate speech laying out a compromise that did not include the "card check," aka "majority signup," provision--the part that affects secret-ballot elections--but kept the other main components of the bill, including increased penalties on employers who violate labor laws in trying to dissuade employees from organizing. In July 2009, six Democratic senators agreed to drop "card check" from EFCA.

"Card check" is pending, as Boehner puts it, insofar as any other bill passed by the House in a previous Congress is pending. But it appears unlikely that Democrats will try to move "card check" in a lame-duck session of Congress, given that the provision was dropped from the Employee Free Choice Act over a year ago.

As long as Democrats support "card check," and as long as they tell unions about that support, it stands to reason that such support is fair game for Republicans to attack. It's tough to have it both ways, and there are honest disagreements about policy between the parties on EFCA. But it doesn't appear likely that Democratic leaders will push for it in a lame-duck session.