The Blog

Problems with a Card-Check Compromise

12:55 PM, Mar 24, 2009 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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Mickey Kaus and Jennifer Rubin have opined recently on what the retailer-proposed compromise on Card Check means. While Rubin argues that card-check is 'going nowhere, and that the compromise is a sign of defeat for Big Labor, Kaus says:

But the danger for union skeptics--including but not limited to business!--is that the Starbucks plan will become the starting point for a compromise that then moves in labor's direction, which explains the ferocity of the Chamber of Commerce's dismissal. And some business lobbyists are terrified of a seemingly mild compromise that, while it keeps secret-ballot elections, requires that they be held so quickly that management never gets to make its case.

I think this latter point is right, and I'll go a step further: this compromise could set the stage for passage of card-check in its current form.

Backers have to get card-check through the House and the Senate and get it signed by the president. Right now the only difficult hurdle is to get Senate approval in the face of a filibuster. House passage is all but assured, as is a presidential signature.

A compromise bill that passes the Senate with bipartisan support would set up a conference committee with the House. Conferees would have to draw up a compromise bill between the House and Senate versions. But as with the stimulus bill, the conference report would be drawn up by Democratic leaders, and would result in the most pro-labor bill they believed could pass the Senate. Reid and the unions could press wavering senators for support on one vote alone: to break a filibuster against the conference report. The conference report would be the most pro-labor bill that could garner 60 votes.

Further, senators are generally less willing to filibuster a conference report than other legislation. Harry Reid might have an easier time keeping moderate Democrats in line against the filibuster of a conference report than the original bill. If nothing else, he could assure them that they would only have to make one painful vote: rather than taking votes to break two filibusters (on initial passage and on the conference report), now there would only be one. And as many as seven or eight Democrats could vote against final passage. Enactment of card-check would by no means be a sure thing, but passage of a weak compromise would be a huge step forward for card-check backers.