Harkin hints 'card-check' bill could move during lame-duck session of Congress

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) suggested Thursday that Democrats might attempt to move "card-check" legislation this year, perhaps during a lame-duck session.

Harkin, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, strongly disputed that the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA, or "card-check") was dead in the Senate.

"To those who think it's dead, I say think again," Harkin said on the liberal Bill Press radio show.

"We're still trying to maneuver," the Iowa Democrat added, explaining that if Democrats can't move the bill in its entirety, they might try to pass key parts of the union-organizing legislation individually.

Harkin has been bullish on EFCA for some time now despite a number of signs over time that there might not be 60 votes in the Senate to move the legislation, with a number of centrist Democrats having balked at the legislation.

But while many in the labor community quietly concede that the bill won't move this Congress in its most robust form, Harkin has been talking up the legislation as recently as last week, in a speech to the United Auto Workers union.

The Iowa senator also raised the prospect on Thursday or trying to pass parts of the card-check bill during a lame-duck session of Congress at the end of the year.

"A lot of things can happen in a lame-duck session, too," he said in reference to EFCA.

A "lame-duck" session refers to the time Congress is in session after an election, during which members who might have retired or lost reelection still serve for roughly two months. Contentious legislation like EFCA is rarely moved during such a session, though the logic behind trying to move the labor bill during a lame-duck Congress is that lawmakers who might have opposed it for political purposes might be more inclined to support it.

A business group opposed to EFCA said on Thursday that Harkin must have missed the message from Arkansas, where labor groups spent millions to back a primary challenge to Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), only to come up short.

“It appears Senator Harkin might have missed the outcome of the Arkansas Senate runoff election earlier this month," said Workforce Fairness Institute executive director Katie Packer. "After spending over $10 million to elect Big Labor’s poster child Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter – who repeatedly claimed EFCA was ‘dead’ – the job-killing agenda advocated by union bosses was widely and unequivocally rejected by voters in Arkansas."

Updated 12:31 p.m.