Mickey Kaus points out that the Service Employees Union, fresh from trying to strong-arm every Democrat they can find in the Senate on card check, is now trying to do the same on health care. He wonders:
Does this hurt the SEIU’s “card check” push by annoying the very moderate Dem Senators they must convince in order to get a pro-labor compromise passed? Or does it help the union, which can now say “Sen. Landrieu–if you vote for card check we’ll give you a pass on health care and stop attacking you”? It’s a form of leverage, after all. And it’s leverage that’s unavailable to the SEIU on the “card check” issue itself: It’s not as if the union could run an ad attacking moderate Dems for failing to embrace ”card check,” which is hard to defend in public.
Well, let’s assume that card check doesn’t yet have the votes to pass the Senate. And let’s also assume that, barring a decision by the Obama administration to jettison the rest of its agenda and suffer through a knock-down-drag-out filibuster fight that will endanger Red State Democrats, it isn’t coming up for a vote soon. That would suggest card check is just a chit to be played by SEIU and the rest of Big Labor to achieve other aims—a pro-labor health care bill (i.e. no taxing union health care benefits no matter how generous they may be), a perpetual parade of protectionist legislation (the cap-and-trade bill being the latest example), ongoing support for the United Auto Workers, etc.
Well none of that is terribly appealing for a Red State Democrat either. These are the people who have to win in states where the voters were already onto Obama’s leftwing agenda before he took office. Now these voters are going to want to know what Mary Landrieu of Louisiana or Ben Nelson of Nebraska or Byron Dorgan of North Dakota or Evan Bayh of Indiana is going to do to restore some moderation to the national agenda. A government takeover of health care with a jumbo tax scheme to go with it is likely even less appealing than card check (since most voters are convinced unions won’t come to their workplaces or that their not-quite-white collar jobs are immune from organizing).
So the bottom line is that to be viable with their own voters, Red State senators pretty much have to reject the entire Big Labor agenda. Whatever tradeoff’s might exist in the minds of SEIU head Andy Stern or Barack Obama, those who must be elected with sizable numbers of Republican and independent voters may be thinking only one thing: just how far do they need to distance themselves from the leftwing agenda of Reid-Pelosi-Obama?