(CNSNews.com) – The arrival of Democrat Al Franken to the U.S. Senate will not change the fate of the Employee Free Choice Act, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) predicts.
In a conference call Thursday, Thune said that proponents of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), commonly referred to as the “card check bill,” would not have enough votes to force the bill for a vote in the U.S. Senate.
“I still believe, that even with the addition of Senator Franken, the Democrats don’t have the votes in the Senate to pass card check,” Thune said.
“What you’re now seeing as a consequence of that are these reports that labor unions and Democrats are working on a compromise that aims to somehow tweak the current language just enough to hopefully win passage,” he added.
Thune, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, also said that opponents of the bill – especially Senate Republicans -- see no reason to pursue any form of compromise on the legislation, as they do not believe its passage to be likely.
“I want to be very clear on this point,” Thune said, “There cannot be a compromise when it comes to card check and mandatory arbitration. The stakes are simply too high for workers, for small businesses, and for our economic recovery. With or without Senator Franken in the Senate, Republicans in the Senate are committed to defending the rights of American workers by defeating this bill.”
Franken was installed last week as the 60th Democratic senator, but Thune pointed out that Senate Democrats currently lack 60 reliable votes for the union-backed bill.
“As a practical matter, right now at least, Senators Kennedy and Byrd are not here day to day,” referring to the fact that the two elder Democrats have been away from the Senate due to health concerns.
Kennedy (D-Mass.) is currently battling brain cancer and has not voted in the Senate since May 13, while 91-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) was hospitalized from May 15 until June 30 and has yet to return to the Senate.
“Now, it may be that they would bring them in for a big vote like this,” Thune said.
However, Byrd’s office told CNSNews.com last week that the West Virginia Democrat is currently recovering at his home, with no expected return to the Senate yet scheduled.
Kennedy’s office could not be reached for comment.
Thune also said there are “a number of Senate Democrats” who he thinks unions and Democratic leaders “are going to be very difficult for the Democrats to pull over on this.
"(Sen.) Blanche Lincoln, I think, has already said a number of times publicly that she would vote against cloture on this piece of legislation, and I don’t think she would be the only Democrat. I think there would be enough other Democrats who’ve made enough commitments to their constituents who say it would be very difficult for them to backtrack on this,” Thune added.
The office of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) confirmed to CNSNews.com last Thursday that she would not support the bill -- and would oppose efforts to invoke cloture, a move designed to bring the bill to a vote in the Senate.
Calls to Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) office, the sponsor of the bill, were not returned.
But Harkin, who has been working as lead negotiator on a compromise, is reportedly close to a deal that Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) may back.
Specter, who switched allegiance from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, has previously announced his opposition to the “card-check” bill. Specter has not rescinded his opposition, despite efforts by Senate Democrats to convince him to change position on EFCA. His office did not comment for this story.
When asked whether there would be any compromise that would be acceptable to Senate Republicans, Thune was adamant: “No.”
“There really isn’t any point, in my view, in compromising,” Thune said. “I mean, if you actually can win the vote -- and I think that we can, you know -- what it tells me is that when everybody starts talking about compromising we’re winning the debate.”
The Employee Free Choice Act would require the National Labor Relations Board to recognize a new union if 50 percent of a company's employees sign cards stating their intent to unionize. This procedure is known as "card check."
Currently, a secret ballot election must be allowed in order for workers to unionize. In addition, EFCA would require companies to enter into government-mandated binding arbitration with newly created unions after 90 days if initial contract negotiations do not yield an agreement. Under this kind of arbitration, neither side would be able to appeal the ruling by an arbitrator. The resulting contract would last for two years.