Pushing back against reports of concern over the Employee Free Choice Act's passage, union officials insisted on Monday and Tuesday that they have enough votes to get the legislative priority through Congress and to the president's desk.
A spokesperson for the AFL-CIO told the Huffington Post that the union's legislative team and whip counters are "100 percent confident" that EFCA will pass. Without giving away who the Republican targets would be -- Democrats will need at least one GOP Senator to defect for a cloture vote ending debate -- the official offered the following optimistic outlook.
"We are not worried at all. The Secretary of Labor and [Vice President] Biden both are coming to our Executive Council meeting and demonstrating their commitment to working Americans and re-building an economy that works for everyone. [Labor Secretary Hilda] Solis spoke at length last night about how important the Employee Free Choice Act was to helping America's workers and rebuilding the middle class. She also made sure to remind everyone that her and Obama were co-sponsors of the Employee Free Choice Act. Right now our analysis is simple. The House will pass it, the Senate will pass it, Obama will sign it, and America's working people will benefit."
The spokesperson's remarks come a day after the Huffington Post reported on concern over the possibility of moderate Democrats defecting on EFCA. Moreover, they come as elected and non-elected Republicans have begun to publicly advertise the resources and energy they will bear on this legislative fight. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich declared during his speech at CPAC that conservatives "will never forgive somebody" who votes for cloture or the passage of EFCA. Meanwhile, business groups are reportedly getting set to ramp up their lobbying efforts and target potential Democratic defectors.
That said, Democratic leadership in the Senate has not backed away from its position that a vote on the Employee Free Choice Act -- which would allow unions to more easily organize -- will be held sometime in the late spring or summer. The party should, by that time, have 59 caucusing members, provided that Al Franken is seated in Minnesota. Thus, in order for the bill to pass cloture, one Republican would have to cross the aisle. The most likely candidate is Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter.
How hard the Obama administration pushes for EFCA's passage could go a long way in determining the outcome of the vote. To this point, the president has given some encouraging signals to the labor community. But he has not been definitive about a preferred time frame for the bill -- choosing instead to focus his time and efforts on more pressing and complex economic matters. That may change with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis installed at her post. The California Democrat made her first public appearance on Monday in Miami before a gathering of union officials and offered an early and firm endorsement of the legislation.
"If you take care of an employee, that employee will produce. Productivity by our workforce, especially union members, has increased," she said. "But we don't see the same value in terms of their wages going up. So there has to be some morality placed there."