Key senators this week appeared to cripple prospects for passing the highly polarizing measure, the labor movement’s top priority in Congress, which is aimed at making it easier for workers to join unions.
The latest hurdle came Friday, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she would seek alternative legislation that was less divisive. Feinstein, a past sponsor of the act, cited the flailing economy as a reason; other critics of the bill have said it would drive up operating costs for businesses at a perilous time.
“This is an extraordinarily difficult economy, and feelings are very strong on both sides of the issue,” Feinstein said in a statement. “I would hope there is some way to find common ground that would be agreeable to both business and labor.”
Feinstein’s words came days after Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) declared that he would not support the bill. Specter too had supported the act in the past, and his announcement was viewed as eliminating any chance that Democrats could muster enough votes to break a promised Republican filibuster.
The card-check bill would bypass the traditional union election process and allow workers to be certified as a bargaining unit if a majority signed cards indicating their support for a union. The proposal played a leading role in congressional campaigns across the country, with voters bombarded by televised ads applauding and demonizing the bill.
Now its supporters are scrambling to figure out their next move. It appears clear that if the legislation has a future, it will not be in its present form.
“We knew all along that this bill would be amended. It seems clear now we’ll have to look at some changes to get to the floor,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a cosponsor of the legislation.