The Secret To Passing EFCA

More Republicans in the Senate!

Unions will (and should) work hard on a state-by-state basis to keep Democratic lawmakers on board (and I promise to do my part to get my own wavering Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet on board), but it seems to me there’s a much easier way to enforce unity: Make Harry Reid choose between getting every Democrat on board, or ending his political career.

This is not a far-fetched idea. In fact, the inevitable whining, screaming and moaning from Establishment Democrats aside, it would be relatively simple to pull off, and Reid – a smart politician – would know that labor could pull it off in a state like his.

Nevada is a conservative-leaning state, but is also both relatively cheap for political advertising/campaigns, and has an extremely strong labor movement, with roughly 14 percent of its workforce organized. Reid is running for reelection in 2010 in a state that tends to have extremely close elections. The labor movement, therefore, could make a very simple proposal to the Senate Majority Leader: Reid can either A) Schedule the votes for EFCA, during the crucial cloture vote to stop a filibuster get every Democratic senator to vote for cloture, and then get 51 Democrats to vote for it on final passage or B) Not do A, and therefore end his political career knowing that organized labor will put $2 or $3 million into an independent third-party progressive candidate against him in the general election.

Apparently the logic is something like this; either something that Harry Reid has no control over happens, and every Democrat votes the same way, or, apparently, we’re going to turn Reid’s seat over to a Republican. Because, clearly, adding to the ranks of the Republican Senate caucus will be a terrific way to help EFCA pass.

It’s times like these when I think Al Giordano really had the best characterization of Sirota; he’s a child. He has a childlike view of the way politics works, and he doesn’t really take much time to learn that he’s wrong. I mean, he doesn’t ven seem to be aware that states have to balance their budgets. I’ve made this point before, but the Senate is not the House, and the Senate Majority Leader is not the Speaker of the House. Harry Reid really has no mechanism by which to force any individual member to vote a certain way. Senators are elected for 6 year terms, inoculating them somewhat from the threat of being in a re-election battle, and they’re elected statewide, which creates a different political dynamic than the one in the House. Moreover, since there’s only 100 Senators, as opposed to 435 members of the House, each Senator enjoys a good deal of individual influence over the body that just doesn’t exist in the Senate.

Anyone who’s read my blog knows where I stand on EFCA, and how much I want to see it passed. But it’s going to be the sort of thing you finesse, not the sort of thing you force. To employ the obligatory bad sports metaphor, it’s a screen pass, not 3 yards and a cloud of dust. Nothing is going to get done until Al Franken is seated, and Democrats have 59 seated Senators. Those 59 members, plus Arlen Specter, would be an assumed 60 votes, but it isn’t hard to imagine some Democrats waivering. Mary Landrieu previously supported the bill, but she doesn’t have to run for re-election until 2014, so she very well may flip, and there’s nothing that can be done about it. Blanche Lincoln is running for re-election in Arkansas, where Wal-Mart reigns supreme, so it may be politically dicey for her to support the bill. On the other hand, these Democrats could oppose the bill, while still voting for cloture, thus enabling it to pass; but I suspect the effect won’t be lost in the slight of hand. And, at the same time, labor really has been outpositioned on this issue. The right has enshrined the idea that EFCA eliminates the secret ballot, and EFCA’s supporters haven’t yet pushed that back, nor have they defined exactly why EFCA is necessary. That alone may make passing EFCA in this Congress impossible. But there will be other Congresses, and there’s a good possibility that Democrats will increase their Senate caucus in 2010, making it easier to pass the bill then.

But David Sirota will still be an idiot.

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