WASHINGTON - Sixty House Republicans joined with every Democrat to beat back an anti-union amendment on Thursday that would have defunded the National Labor Relations Board, a New Deal-era independent agency that arbitrates labor disputes. The sixty defections come as the Midwest GOP governors in Wisconsin and Ohio are launching direct assaults on public employee unions.
Nine high-ranking Republican members of the Education and the Workforce Committee broke with their party to support the agency, including the chairman, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.). GOP hostility toward organized labor is not a new phenomenon, but the hostility has intensified since Republicans took control of the House; the party went so far as to rename what had been called the Education and Labor Committee, replacing "labor" with "the workforce."
The amendment had been introduced by Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) and was beaten back by a 250 to 176 tally.
House Republicans are piling up losses in a chamber where the majority party typically rules with an iron fist. A bipartisan coalition thwarted an effort to pass an extension of the Patriot Act and eliminated money for a weapons project that House Speaker John Boehner strongly backed.
The losses would have been avoidable had Boehner chosen to lock the House floor down and ram through the spending package without allowing amendments. But Boehner, say people close to him, is committed to keeping the floor open and allowing for a free-flowing debate, even if it costs him here and there.
In the end, he might get an open floor and win the legislative victories he wants: the House eventually passed an extension of the Patriot Act and the Senate (or Congressional dysfunction) could save the duplicate fighter-jet engine he backs. And the NLRB certainly hasn't heard the last of the GOP.