By Michael O'Brien | Posted: 08/14/09 02:04 PM [ET] - 08/14/09 02:01 PM EDT
Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) told a liberal bloggers' convention Friday he would support his new party on a procedural motion to move to decisive votes on card-check legislation and other Democratic priorities.
“I expect the cloture vote to occur on a modified version of the employees' Free Choice legislation,” Specter told the bloggers. “And I will support that cloture vote.”
Before leaving the Republican Party, Specter announced in late March that he would oppose the card-check bill in its current form and would also vote no on a cloture motion. At the time, he said he would work to find a compromise to the huge battle between business and labor.
A few weeks later, Specter switched to the Democratic Party after it became clear he faced a difficult path to winning the GOP Senate primary in Pennsylvania. He has since maintained that his position on card-check would remain consistent.
A group of senators from both parties has been trying to negotiate a compromise that could allow a vote on a card-check bill.
The group has considered dropping the card-check provision, which would allow a union to form if a majority of workers check cards signing off on union representation. If that provision was eliminated, an employer would still be able to insist that a secret-ballot election be held before a union may be formed.
Even without the card-check provision, the bill is controversial with business groups and Republicans. They also strongly oppose a provision that would impose binding arbitration on labor-management disputes.
The anti-card check Workforce Fairness Institute responded to his comments with a release that said Specter should clarify his exact intentions.
“Specter needs to answer whether he will vote no on cloture if the bill includes the elimination of the secret ballot or mandatory, binding arbitration," said Katie Packer, executive director for the group.
"And working families in Pennsylvania deserve to know whether Specter will keep the promise he made to them on the floor of the United States Senate when he stated his opposition to both card check and forced arbitration.”
A Specter vote for cloture would boost a bill’s prospects, but it would still face challenges. While Democrats hold 60 seats in the Senate, they have trouble mustering 60 votes given the ailing health of Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.). Several centrist Democrats also have reservations about the card-check bill.
This story was updated at 2:30 p.m.