It’s a small step towards a modest goal, but nonetheless important: the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Employee Free Choice Act by a margin of 241-185 today, with 13 Republicans joining all but two Democrats to pass the measure. The bill will probably get filibustered to death in the Senate, and Bush has promised to veto it, but still, House passage represents an opportunity to start reversing decades of never-accurate and certainly-anachronistic conservative propaganda about the right to organize unions. Usually referred to as “Card Check,” what the bill provides is that when a majority of workers sign verifiable “cards” indicating a desire to organize a union, employers must recognizing that union, without going through the vastly expensive, complicated, and employer-tilted process for an official National Labor Relations Board election. It essentially restores the “majority-rules” principle for collective bargaining that has been eroded so dramatically in recent years. I’m proud that virtually all Democrats, including, BTW, the DLC, have supported this legislation, and its passage and short-term demise will help illustrate the need for continued Democratic control of Congress, and a Democratic president in 2008. This type of legislation is particularly significant for those Democrats who haven’t completely succumbed to despair over economic globalization. Vibrant, growing unions are essential to the progressive goal of a national economic policy aimed at shaping economic change in the common, national interest. Making the EFCA the law of the land is a minimal first step in that direction.
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By Ed Kilgore
This year’s big media narrative has been the confirmation saga of Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget. At New York I wrote about how over-heated the talk surrounding Tanden has become.
Okay, folks, this is getting ridiculous. When a vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the nomination of Neera Tanden was postponed earlier this week, you would have thought it presented an existential threat to the Biden presidency. “Scrutiny over Tanden’s selection has continued to build as the story over her uneven reception on Capitol Hill stretched through the week,” said one Washington Post story. Politico Playbook suggested that if Tanden didn’t recover, the brouhaha “has the potential to be what Biden might call a BFD.” There’s been all sorts of unintentionally funny speculation about whether the White House is playing some sort of “three-dimensional chess” in its handling of the confirmation, disguising a nefarious plan B or C.
Perhaps it reflects the law of supply and demand, which requires the inflation of any bit of trouble for Biden into a crisis. After all, his Cabinet nominees have been approved by the Senate with a minimum of 56 votes; the second-lowest level of support was 64 votes. One nominee who was the subject of all sorts of initial shrieking, Tom Vilsack, was confirmed with 92 Senate votes. Meanwhile, Congress is on track to approve the largest package of legislation moved by any president since at least the Reagan budget of 1981, with a lot of the work on it being conducted quietly in both chambers. Maybe if the bill hits some sort of roadblock, or if Republican fury at HHS nominee Xavier Becerra (whose confirmation has predictably become the big fundraising and mobilization vehicle for the GOP’s very loud anti-abortion constituency) reaches a certain decibel level, Tanden can get out of the spotlight for a bit.
But what’s really unfair — and beyond that, surreal — is the extent to which this confirmation is being treated as more important than all the others combined, or indeed, as a make-or-break moment for a presidency that has barely begun. It’s not. If Tanden cannot get confirmed, the Biden administration won’t miss a beat, and I am reasonably sure she will still have a distinguished future in public affairs (though perhaps one without much of a social-media presence). And if she is confirmed, we’ll all forget about the brouhaha and begin focusing on how she does the job, which she is, by all accounts, qualified to perform.