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With Franken seated, labor plans to press pro-union bill

Al FrankenAl FrankenOvernight Tech: AT&T, Time Warner CEOs defend merger before Congress | More tech execs join Trump team | Republican details path to undoing net neutrality Lawmakers grill AT&T, Time Warner execs on B merger Dems press Trump to keep Obama overtime rule MORE’s victory in Minnesota over incumbent Norm Coleman gives Democrats the 60th vote they need to overcome Republican filibusters — assuming, of course, they can keep their often-feuding caucus unified.

That may be a tall order, but Franken’s win is undeniably a victory for the party and particularly for labor, of which the former “Saturday Night Live” comedian is an unabashed fan.

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Union officials plan to renew their push for a controversial bill that would make it easier for employees to organize, legislation that has stalled so far this Congress under a massive lobbying campaign by business groups that oppose it as a threat to an already listless economy.

“Now is the time to create real change. Minnesotans and working families everywhere should be encouraged by the addition of Sen. Franken,” said Josh Goldstein, spokesman for American Rights at Work, a worker-rights advocacy group.

“We must not back down in reminding our leaders that working families are counting on them to pass this legislation, because big business will continue to be relentless in their attacks.”

 Aides for Sen. Tom HarkinTom HarkinGrassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Do candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? MORE (D-Iowa), the bill’s lead negotiator, have said the seating of Franken is key to moving the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), also known as “card-check.”

But it is only one piece of the puzzle for passing card-check, as a number of Democrats are waiting to see if a viable compromise can be agreed upon. Centrists have disparaged the legislation, calling it too divisive during an economic crisis.

Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) have come out against EFCA, though Specter has been involved in negotiations with Harkin to craft an alternative.

The opposition has also been gearing up for the fight. The Employee Freedom Action Committee, which opposes EFCA, has initiated a television ad campaign targeting Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), asking him not to support the pro-labor bill.

There’s another threat to card-check: a slew of other items on the Democratic to-do list. None of these is bigger than health reform, which Democratic leaders want passed in the House and Senate by the August recess.

One critical question is whether the healthcare bill will include a public plan. Liberal groups like MoveOn.org favor allowing the government to provide coverage to the uninsured.

Republicans and business groups and a few Democrats oppose a public plan, however, arguing that it is unfair to ask the private sector to compete with the federal government and that it will create another unwieldy bureaucracy.

Most Democratic versions of the health reform bill include a public option. The House bill has one. So does the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s bill. Obama supports it, too. But, importantly, the Senate Finance Committee’s product does not.

“Make no mistake about it, the president is for this strongly. There will be a public option in the final bill,” Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerSecond Dem calls for probe into Russian election involvement Schumer calls for Senate probe into Russian interference Senate Dems hold out on spending deal, risking shutdown MORE (D-N.Y.) said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) also has said a final bill will include a public plan.

The Senate HELP Committee will continue its markup of the health bill on Tuesday.

Another major legislative push — on climate change — isn’t on as tight a schedule as the health reform bill. But Senate Democrats are working to take on the issue, after a climate bill squeaked through the House before the recess.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will study the issue at a hearing on Tuesday that features the secretaries of the Energy, Agriculture and Interior departments and the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Senate Finance, meanwhile, examines the international trade provisions of the climate change bill at a hearing on Wednesday. The House bill includes trade penalties against countries that don’t cap greenhouse gas emissions to protect American businesses, but President Obama has said he opposes the provision.

The plan now is to meld the climate measure, yet to be drafted, with an energy bill drafted by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and his Energy and Natural Resources Committee. That legislation passed with broad bipartisan support but is itself contentious and raises issues that the House climate measure avoids — namely, whether to open new areas of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling. That provision in the Senate bill has prompted a filibuster threat not from a Republican, but from Florida Democratic Sen. Bill NelsonBill NelsonSenate clears water bill with Flint aid, drought relief House passes water bill with Flint aid, drought relief Fight over water bill heats up in Senate MORE.

Senate defense authorizers, meanwhile, return to work with a hearing on military commissions and the trial of military detainees for violations of law.

Sens. Carl LevinCarl Levin'Nuclear option' for Supreme Court nominees will damage Senate McCain's Supreme Court strategy leads to nuclear Senate The Fed and a return to banking simplicity MORE (D-Mich.), John McCainJohn McCainSunday shows preview: Trump sits down with Fox McCain: Tillerson ties to Putin a 'matter of concern' Second Dem calls for probe into Russian election involvement MORE (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamDemocrats unnerved by Trump's reliance on generals Graham slams Russia Second Dem calls for probe into Russian election involvement MORE (R-S.C.) worked closely with the White House to include legislation in the 2010 defense authorization bill that clarifies and in some ways facilitates the use of military commissions for the trial of some detainees.

The senators face a number of other hot-button issues, ranging from whether to buy more F-22 Raptors or pay for a second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter to the closure of the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and how much to invest in missile defense.

Senate leadership expects to see the bill on the floor at some point in July.



Jeffrey Young and Roxana Tiron contributed to this article.