Making Reid Do It: The Best Way to Prevent Dem Defections and Pass EFCA

by: David Sirota

Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 22:40

The Huffington Post reports that there is growing concern in organized labor that a faction of Democratic senators will vote against the Employee Free Choice Act, thus killing it. Unions will (and should) work hard on a state-by-state basis to keep Democratic lawmakers on board (and I promise to do my part to get my own wavering Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet on board), but it seems to me there's a much easier way to enforce unity: Make Harry Reid choose between getting every Democrat on board, or ending his political career.

This is not a far-fetched idea. In fact, the inevitable whining, screaming and moaning from Establishment Democrats aside, it would be relatively simple to pull off, and Reid - a smart politician - would know that labor could pull it off in a state like his.

Nevada is a conservative-leaning state, but is also both relatively cheap for political advertising/campaigns, and has an extremely strong labor movement, with roughly 14 percent of its workforce organized. Reid is running for reelection in 2010 in a state that tends to have extremely close elections. The labor movement, therefore, could make a very simple proposal to the Senate Majority Leader: Reid can either A) Schedule the votes for EFCA, during the crucial cloture vote to stop a filibuster get every Democratic senator to vote for cloture, and then get 51 Democrats to vote for it on final passage or B) Not do A, and therefore end his political career knowing that organized labor will put $2 or $3 million into an independent third-party progressive candidate against him in the general election.

That relatively modest (by national political standards) amount of money (which labor could easily muster and which could go a fairly long way in a state like Nevada) combined with the infrastructure of a powerful Nevada labor movement would do two things: 1) Prompt candidacies from top-tier Republican candidates who would otherwise take a pass on the run but who know the independent candidacy would weaken Reid and 2) very likely peel away anywhere from 5 to 15 percent from Reid in his reelection run, all but guaranteeing his defeat to said Republican and the end of his political career.

David Sirota :: Making Reid Do It: The Best Way to Prevent Dem Defections and Pass EFCA
Let's be clear: Harry Reid himself is not the problem on EFCA. He supports it. But this isn't about Harry Reid or any individual senator - it's about the best means to enacting a desperately needed policy (or at least it shouldn't be for organized labor on an integrally important bill like this).

Let's also be clear - it wouldn't be fair to ask Reid to be responsible for finding the 2 or 3 Republican senators needed to overcome a filibuster. Pressuring the GOP is where labor's state-by-state money should be going, not to efforts to simply get the Democrats (which labor has been supporting for years) to vote the right way. Lord knows, getting a few Republican votes is a big enough task for unions without having to worry about Democratic defectors.

That said, it's completely fair to ask Reid - as leader of a Democratic Party that achieved its majority because of union support - to be responsible for getting every Democratic vote for EFCA. He signed up to be leader and Spiderman reminds us that with great power comes great responsibility. If he's any kind of leader, he should be able to meet the challenge, especially with the fire of potential forced retirement lit under him. And if he can't, then he doesn't belong in office.

Now, I'm sure there will be people who will say, "What, you think a Republican would be better in Nevada's senate seat?" No, I don't. But this has to be a general election strategy - not a primary strategy - because a primary is far less frightening to Reid than a well-financed third-party candidate taking votes out of his base in a general election. More importantly, for organized labor, which knows EFCA is a life-or-death matter to them and who should know that this issue is even more important to them than their clubby relationship with D.C. Democrats, this is the most efficient way to deal with the problem of defecting Democrats. And for progressives who are serious about passing transformative policies, one senate seat in an election year where the Senate majority isn't really in doubt is a worthy wager for a bill as important to the economy and to workers as EFCA.

Indeed, when it comes to a bill like EFCA, which will draw a huge amount of corporate opposition, the only way to get it passed will be to deploy the stick, and not just the carrot that labor has been giving to Democrats with almost no real demands for anything in return. And to those who say this is too sharp a stick, I say get over your queasiness - as they said in Jerry Maguire, this isn't show friends, its show business, or to paraphrase A League of Their Own, this is politics, and there's no crying in politics. If you want to get something as monumental done as EFCA, it's going to require the same kind of stick that passed every other transformative policy, from the New Deal to the Great Society to civil rights laws.

Because of both Reid's reelection calendar and Nevada's dynamics as a conservative-leaning large-union state, the question is no longer whether labor has a powerful enough stick. It does right at its fingertips. It's all a matter of whether the labor movement is willing to act like a movement - whether it is willing to use that stick and put policy goals ahead of individual political relationships in Washington, D.C.

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Wait for Franken though, right? (4.00 / 5)
Since this will need every vote, probably the bill can wait until Al Franken is seated (as soon as April... hopefully...)

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

Sure, that makes sense. (4.00 / 5)

[ Parent ]
April of what year?? It is way beyond ridiculous. (4.00 / 2)
While Washington proclaims the EFCA will enable workers to succeed, they are busy forcing the UAW to give up wages and benefits they earned.  This is contrast to Geithner's opposition to CEOs losing bonuses for destroying their companies and the American economy.  At what point does all of this theater reconcile with reality?  

[ Parent ]
I understand your frustration and loss of patience. (4.00 / 1)
I support the fastest possible route to ending the decades long suppression of Americans desire to join a labor union, the decades long fight for real power in the workplace, the return of fairness into the right of collective bargaining.

Al Franken will be the Senator from Minnesota. His vote a welcome addition to the strength of the Democratic Caucus. The passgae of the bill is the important goal. Speed is needed, but sure passage is more important.  


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
I thought it would've been amusing (0.00 / 0)
if Obama had appointed Reid to HHS, despite Nevada's Republican governor, just to get a new majority leader who does away with the filibuster. 58 seats with a threshold of 50 is still much better than 59 with a threshold of 60. But clearly that's unrealistic - just fun to speculate about.

No majority leader (4.00 / 1)
is going to do away with the filibuster.  

[ Parent ]
The republicans almost did. (4.00 / 1)
But they didnt need to with all the bush dogs.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
They almost did (0.00 / 0)
for judicial nominees...not entirely

[ Parent ]
I don't know why not (0.00 / 0)
I mean, you're probably right, but I simply don't understand what the party leadership is thinking. If I were in the majority, doing away with the filibuster would be my first order of business. Why would you make it harder than it has to be to pass legislation?  

[ Parent ]
The filibuster has made no "practical" sense (4.00 / 1)
sine the 17th Amendment was attached to the Constitution in the 19th Century.

But then, actually, the whole notion of the "Senate" has made little sense since then, too...

[ Parent ]
Because you want it (0.00 / 0)
when you're in the minority.  

[ Parent ]
We have to do it... (4.00 / 1)
I hate "club for growthing" the guy, but this really is a matter of life or death for the strongest, most powerful democratic constituency...  Democrats are fools for trying to stop this... they'd lose their best re-election tool... Passing it, only grows their electoral power.  Sadly, in the deep midwest (not upper) and mountain west don't understand these things very well...

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

I'd like to add... (4.00 / 2)
That all these folks have to do is vote for cloture... we've easily got enough to pass as a majority...

The timing of this will be tricky... We may be better off after the primary season next year 'cos then Specter will be free to do what he wants... But, the longer this waits, the more time the well funded opposition has to make things more difficult.

It's a tricky thing.  Good thing for us that the president isn't going to just let this slide...

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

[ Parent ]
It's bizarre having this conversation (0.00 / 0)
isn't it? A Majority Leader who doesn't believe in using the most basic and fundamental rule of the Senate on behalf of his majority?

[ Parent ]
Reid alone can't deliver cloture though (4.00 / 1)
It's relatively easy to get all the Democrats to vote for cloture, but that doesn't make it...we need a Republican.

What is he going to have to give up to get that Republican? And what are we going to do to him after he does give up something.

EFCA is not going to be an easy sell in New York, they are prominent Democratic clubs that do not even support it.  

[ Parent ]
The real problem is that the (0.00 / 0)
dems know they will continue to get labors support no matter what they do. Hell labor has even supported some of the worst Republicans.

Washington isn't the only thing that needs new leadership.

[ Parent ]
Remarkably bad idea (0.00 / 0)
and I'm glad there is no chance that labor would be so dumb as to do it.

Harry Reid is the Democratic leader in the Senate, that does not mean he has to force every Democrat to vote for something or lose his seat beacuse he couldn't bribe them.

Quite frankly that's the kind of thugish tactics I'd expect from corporate lobbyists and the Republican party, not our side.

If your going to spend money trying to get EFCA passed and think threatening people is the best way to do it at least threaten to run a third party progressive candidate in Arkansas against Lincoln so she loses.

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

Silly, but ended with a good point (4.00 / 6)
He's the Democratic leader - he's supposed to be the guy who organizes what goes through and not through a Democratic Senate. Asking him to do this is the least that should be asked of him. Frankly, your overwrought comparison to corporate lobbyists is idiotic - labor unions representing millions of workers who gave portions of their paychecks to subsidize Democratic campaigns are not corporate lobbies.

However, your idea about running candidates against people like Lincoln - that's a good idea. The more the merrier.

[ Parent ]
He's the Democratic leader (0.00 / 0)
he is responsible for shaping and passing the priorities of the Democratic caucus not forcing the caucus to bend to his priorities. The idea that a parties leader should control the votes of 58 other democratically elected legislators is remarkably undemocratic.

And if you want a argument about campaign contributions Blanche Lincoln and the other swing votes are not going to be persuaded. Lincoln got 52 percent of her money from PAC's, just 8 percent of that was from labor. Corporate executives from Wal-Mart alone gave more then labor did to her. She owes a lot more to anti-union worker hating Wal-Mart then she does to organized labor, to punish Harry Reid for that is just a remarkably bad idea. Harry Reid is not the problem, plenty of the problem is up for re-election (Lincoln, Bayh, Burris and Bennet) focus on them, not trying to defeat a pro-EFCA senator.

I agree, let's make them do it, but let's use grassroots issue organizing to persuade and the democratic process to defeat anti-EFCA senators. That's what labor is doing currently and will thankfully continue doing. Cloture is the whole issue, if we can't get to 60 this time we need to add more Senators to the pro-EFCA ranks, and anyone who doesn't vote for cloture should never again receive any form of help from unions or any other progressive group.  

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

[ Parent ]
It's unrealistic (4.00 / 1)
to think he controls the votes though...I mean what majority leader ever really controlled 100% of what his caucus did? I would understand if he couldn't get 50 votes, but what if he gets 58 of 59,  do we punish Reid because Blanche Lincoln couldn't be convinced to vote for EFCA?  

[ Parent ]
Michael Bennet needs to know that he WILL lose to Romanoff if he votes against cloture. (4.00 / 3)
This is your backyard.  Bennet and Blanche Lincoln are the only two iffy votes I'm aware of.  Lincoln will go where the DC club wants her to, and she'll be hard for us to control regardless; but Bennet 1) might get it in his head to freelance, and 2) is much more vulnerable to progressive pressure to begin with.   Bennet is a good place to start.

Reid is a good second stop.  I'm gonna guess that Reid can deliver Lincoln if he really wants to.

[ Parent ]
Agreed (4.00 / 4)
If Bennet votes no he needs to be crushed by Romanoff.  

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

[ Parent ]
Unintentionally ironic (4.00 / 3)
Twisting arms is pretty much standard operating procedure in politics - it happens all the time.  It doesn't make it right, but its not unique.  

On the other hand, EFCA will help prevent thuggish behavior by employers who violate their employees federally protected right to have a union.  

Threatening someone that they will get less help for re-election or fewer earmarks - versus threatening someone's livelihood.  Yes, one of these things is thuggish.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
EFCA (0.00 / 0)
is the single most important bill that has come up in Congress since 1947. The stimulus, healthcare, energy, education and all that other stuff is hugely important. But a country with strong economic democracy (unions) is going to have a stronger progressive infrastructure and progressives will have more power and good legislation will be more likely to pass.

So yeah, EFCA is pretty damn important and I think we should be pouring everything into getting it passed. But less help for re-election or fewer earmarks isn't what David's proposing, he's saying that if Harry Reid doesn't get every single Democrat to vote for EFCA labor should make a effort to make Reid lose and get replaced by an anti-union Republican. It is quite possible that EFCA will fail cloture by a few votes this Congress and pro-union Democrats will make gains in the 2010 midterms that will give us the votes to make EFCA get passed cloture. It's also possible that Reid could be the deciding vote in that case, if we ran a strong progressive third party candidate and he lost and thus couldn't provide the 60th vote where would that get us?

It would make the most important legislation in more then 60 years fail because of a petty and foolish strategy. Thankfully America's union movement isn't dumb enough to do such a thing.  

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

[ Parent ]
The threat needs to be there... (0.00 / 0)
...and it needs to be real... This is how the Republicans managed to get their moderates onboard during tough times...

Although targeting Reid may not be so productive.  He knows the stakes for himself personally in Nevada...

We need to target the Wal Mart dems who may be wavering...

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

[ Parent ]
But Reid? (0.00 / 0)
Seriously? You target your enimies in politics, not your friends. And at least on EFCA Harry Reid is our freind.

Licoln if she votes no on cloture yes to a primary challenge at the very least, I'm not convinced a thirty party, even well funded to hurt her enough to make it worth. If Bennet doesn't want to be a Senator any more there are plenty of other pro-union Colorado pols that could easily take him out.

But target the anti-EFCA ones, not the pro-EFCA ones.  

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

[ Parent ]
The Republicans never targeted Frist or Lott (4.00 / 1)
they targeted Specter, etc.

[ Parent ]
Exactly n/t (0.00 / 0)

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

[ Parent ]
And its quite possible (4.00 / 1)
your 2010 scenario won't happen, either. In fact, I say that since its been 30 years since the last time the Dems had 60, the odds are against it.

What we want is very simple: we want the man from Searchlight to force the opposition to decide if they want to filibuster a working man's bill.

Reid strikes me as a simple man, in the best since of the word. This should not be a difficult choice.

[ Parent ]
'thuggish' ?? no wonder we lose, with wimpy ass (4.00 / 1)
thinking like that pervading our wimpy ass party.

from the comments, it appears you have difficulty understanding that:

DEMOCRATIC LEADER = passing important stuff for Democratic constituents, ESPECIALLY US PEEE-ONS.

Of course, I guess we need to keep our powder dry for that big fight ... cuz, that is what the convential wisdom broder types think is smart.


It is too full o' the milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way

[ Parent ]
"Jerry... (4.00 / 1)'re still my agent."

I say do it.

I have to agree with Lord Mike (4.00 / 1)
I don't care if the Dems vote for EFCA so long as they vote for cloture. That's all that I want Reid to deliver - cloture.  The unions can get the a bare majority.  Besides, is Reid up in 2010?

The tasty stick (4.00 / 1)
Unfortunately, if Reid loses, his big punishment will be to walk into a million dollar a year job in corporate amerika or as a lobbyist.


Well, you may misunderestimate a bit there (0.00 / 0)
Unfortunately, if Reid loses, his big punishment will be to walk into a million dollar a year job in corporate amerika or as a lobbyist.

If Tom Daschle is the marker, it's MULTIPLE MILLIONS of dollars doing in private what he used to get peanuts to do in public: shill for his corpoRat masters...

[ Parent ]
Also, don't you find a TINY BIT of cognitive dissonance (0.00 / 0)
in the fact that Obama now is trying to undo bankruptcy provisions for which he voted (in committee), even though he 'voted' against the bill in 2005 when its passage was assured?

Mr. Sirota?  


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