Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sixty votes needed for EFCA. Or fewer?

The Employee Free Choice Act will need 60 votes to beat a filibuster attempt, but it will, of course, only need 50 votes to pass. The unions and Democratic leaders have suggested that they might get a few of their members, and one or more republicans, to vote for cloture, even if they go on to vote against the bill, and that'd of course be fine with them.

Is this scenario realistic?

With a big-item bill like this, with a definite filibuster threat, and where there are clearly more than 50 votes (but maybe not 60), voting for cloture but against the bill is, you know, perhaps a bit gimmicky. Maybe you could say it's principled -- that the filibuster should only be used in the most extreme cases, and that you disagree with the bill but aren't stopping it. Certainly's there'be been validity to that in many cases, but in this day and age, where filibustering is frequent, I just don't know that it works that way anymore.

So Senators that voted for cloture but against the bill would be trying to satisfy voters on both sides, as well as the unions and the businesses. But Josh Marshall argues that while you can fool many voters, you can't fool, say, Walmart (he's talking about the Arkansas senators). The businesses will know that if a senator votes for cloture, they have allowed the bill to pass, and they may retaliate against the Senator just as hard.

I'm curious about the other side of the equation -- will a senator who votes for cloture but against the bill be in good stead with the unions? This question could be particularly relevant with Specter. The unions are saying that they will support Specter in the general election if he votes for EFCA.

I think Specter ought to be able to tell the unions: "I can vote for cloture but will vote against the bill. That gets you everything you need from me. So I'll do that, if you pledge to help me afterward."

If Specter or others vote for cloture but against the bill, I think Marshall is right that the businesses will see right through it, and do what they can to punish them. But in the public debate, the issue will dissipate after the vote, and could quickly become inside baseball.


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