White House calling union leaders ahead of vote on ObamaCare resolution

LOS ANGELES — White House officials have been calling union leaders about a resolution critical of ObamaCare that is set to pass on Wednesday at the AFL-CIO convention.

Union leaders have been tight-lipped about the calls coming from Washington, but at least one labor official said he understands that the Obama administration has been watching the resolution’s progress and expressing a desire that it not move forward.

ADVERTISEMENT
Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said the White House would rather not have the AFL-CIO pass a resolution that lays out several complaints against the healthcare law.

“My understanding is [the calls are] to encourage that the resolution not to be brought to the floor and allow the administration to address the concerns with a commitment, an attempt to resolve some of the issues,” Schaitberger said. “My understanding is that they would have preferred that no resolution be brought to the floor.”

At an early Wednesday morning meeting, the AFL-CIO Executive Council decided to move the ObamaCare resolution onto the convention floor for a vote, several union officials told The Hill.

Schaitberger said no one from the administration has brought up the resolution with him during the convention, but he is aware of intense interest from the White House and Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

“I know there have been phone calls to several leaders, particularly those directly involved in development of the resolution. I know there have been a number of meetings and discussions with a variety of presidents from various unions and the secretary of Labor,” Schaitberger said.

Other union leaders said they too were aware of the White House calling labor leaders about the resolution.

“I don’t think it’s ‘Don’t do a resolution.’ It’s about setting a resolution that lays out the problems and sets the framework for discussions,” said one union leader about outreach from the administration.

Consideration of the resolution has been delayed throughout the day on Wednesday, the labor confab’s final day in Los Angeles. The measure has been the subject of intense internal debate among AFL-CIO members, with many pushing for a strong rebuke of the law.

A vote on the resolution is now expected after 2 p.m. Pacific Time once debate concludes on the convention floor.

A draft of the resolution, which The Hill described on Tuesday, describes ObamaCare’s positive aspects but also details what labor sees as flaws. Several unions are worried that the law could force members off their insurance plans.

If passed, the resolution would have the nation’s largest labor federation on the record calling for changes to the healthcare law. The AFL-CIO lobbied for ObamaCare’s passage and is one of President Obama’s biggest political backers.

A White House official said the administration has been in regular contact with unions regarding their problems with the healthcare law.

“White House officials are in regular contact with a variety of stakeholders, including unions, as part of our efforts to ensure smooth implementation and to improve the law,” said a White House official.

Valerie Jarrett, one of the president’s closest advisers, and Perez attended the AFL-CIO convention this week. In speeches to union officials, both said the administration wants to work with labor to find a solution.

One union leader said administration officials are working with labor.

“I know they have talked to people who are interested in the resolution,” said another union leader. “They [the administration] are trying to work with people on what they can actually work on.”

Talk of the White House lobbying on the resolution has ruffled some in labor. Several union leaders have pushed for the measure to be debated openly here in Los Angeles. 

Schaitberger said he understands the White House has let Democratic lawmakers point out ObamaCare's flaws with constituents, and he believes labor has that same right.

“If it’s good enough for Congress to point out shortcomings, it certainly ought to be good enough for the labor movement to do it without some fear of retribution,” Schaitberger said.