May 27, 2009
Is EFCA dead?
[Place cursor over chart to enlarge]

We think so, at least for the 111th Congress. And here’s why.

It never got to a vote in the Senate, but the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) was passed by the House of Representatives in 2007 during the 110th Congress, with broad support from Democrats (no surprise there). But 13 Republicans also voted for approval.

Why the Republican support? Twelve of the 13 Republican Congressmen are from New York, New Jersey, other northeastern states or the upper Midwest…traditionally union strongholds. While none of the 13 are particularly strong union supporters (as a group they vote in favor of union interests only 25-65% of the time according to the AFL-CIO scorecard) ten were up for re-election in 2008. Most certainly, they wanted to line up for their share of union campaign contributions, and unions were spending BIG on EFCA in the last election cycle.

But here’s the twist…these Republicans openly supported EFCA, knowing George Bush would veto the legislation if it ever reached his desk. A perfect world for a politician…rake in union campaign money by supporting controversial legislation, safe in the knowledge there is no chance it will become law.

Fast forward to 2009 and a new Congress, the 111th. Unpassed legislation does not survive the advent of a new session, so 2007’s EFCA is now dead and it’s back to the drawing board. Democrats control both houses and the Oval Office, so why isn’t it a slam dunk to get EFCA passed? Two reasons: the economy, and Washington game-playing.

Although they are teetering on a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, a handful of moderate Democrats have declared their lack of support for EFCA for fear it will damage the economy even more.

So, EFCA supporters can’t overcome a filibuster in the Senate. But there is no such problem in the House, so why hasn’t it moved forward there? The answer is pure political calculation. Many Democrats who voted for EFCA when they knew it wouldn’t pass (so they could secure union campaign contributions) don’t really support the legislation but don’t want to openly admit it for fear of antagonizing the unions that supplied all that campaign cash. So to provide cover for these wayward liberals, Speaker Pelosi won’t bring EFCA to a vote until the Senate has passed it.

The bottom line…EFCA is dead for now, but will live to fight another day.