Today on the Senate floor, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) announced his intention to vote against cloture on the Employee Free Choice Act. Specter was the only Republican to vote for cloture when the measure was last considered in 2007. During his announcement, Specter noted his previous support for EFCA, but suggested that the current condition of the economy makes “this a particularly bad time to enact employee’s choice legislation”:
SPECTER: The problem of the recession make this a particularly bad time to enact employees choice legislation. … I am announcing my decision now because I have consulted with a very large number of interested parties on both sides and I have made up my mind. Knowing that I will not support cloture on this bill, Senators may choose to move on and amend the [National Labor Relations Act], as I have suggested, or otherwise.
Additionally, Specter suggested that he did not want to bear the political cost of being the “decisive vote” in favor of EFCA. Watch it:
Earlier this month, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) noted, “In 1935, we passed the Wagner Act that promoted unionization and allowed unions to flourish, and at the time we were at around 20 percent unemployment. So tell me again why we can’t do this in a recession? … This is exactly the time we should be insisting on a fairer playing field for people to organize themselves.” As David Sirota commented, “Put another way, we don’t have the leeway to pass EFCA despite the bad economy, we have the imperative to pass EFCA because of the bad economy.”
CongressDaily notes that “Specter’s opposition could doom the legislation because to pass the bill organized labor needs 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster,” which means, “keeping every single Democratic vote, securing a win for Democratic candidate Al Franken in the ongoing Minnesota Senate race and keeping Specter.”
As evidence of the right-wing pressure he was facing, one of Specter’s first calls was to Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, to inform him of his decision. Further, as Sam Stein notes, Specter is “likely to face a major primary challenge from Club For Growth president Pat Toomey in the 2010 election, which may have factored into this apparent decision.”
Responding to Specter’s announcement, Norquist told the Washington Times, “This is huge. This ends card check for the year. Now we have to make sure the Democrats don’t pick up two or three Senate seats.”