Wednesday, January 13, 2010

UPDATED - Union Healthcare Support = Card Check?

The unions are not happy with the Democrats right now. After helping them get elected and specifically after some unions (SIUE) helped intimidate health care opposition at town hall meetings, the administration and Senate Democrats are now calling for a tax on luxury or “Cadillac” health care plans (click here for more info on what is a luxury plan).

Why would this upset the unions, well many of the unions, in the past, have negotiated these plans for their members. This would mean that in most cases a tax would be levied on union members, not the employers. While the House has no such plan in their bill, Obama and the Senate have both recommended this plan and all indications show that the House will probably relent should the two bills be reconciled. The unions are not at the point where they are publicly coming out against healthcare, but have begun making veiled threats. According to an article in the Lipman Times,

“AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka warned the Obama administration that even
though unions will not oppose the final bill, it could impact upcoming mid-term
elections. “People could stay home. It could suppress votes,” he said”

With the 2010 elections already looking grim for the Democrats they cannot afford to have the unions not participate in the upcoming elections. Reading Trumka’s comments made me wonder what the administration is going to give to the unions so that they will endorse this plan should it be reconciled. Obama really needs this to pass considering the amount of time and effort he has put into this and if he wants to continue to roll out his agenda, he needs a Democrat controlled House and Senate. To pull that off, he needs the unions. So, what can Obama offer to the unions that would make them endorse this health care plan? Card check. If you are not familiar with card check, read this.

Indications that this is on the table have already come out. Late on January 11th in an article in the Wall Street Journal, it was written,

“Trumka predicted that legislation allowing workers to organize labor unions
more easily, dubbed "card check," would be passed in the first quarter of 2010.”
Obama is an advocate of this program, but with the economy in the tank and many business leaders against it, the Democrats have been weary to push this agenda. The US Chamber of Commerce has come out against as has Obama supporter Warren Buffett.

Card check is not something that Obama can really afford to invest a lot of political capital into. That said, he really cannot afford to have the unions fighting him on health care and take a back seat in the 2010 elections. He is going to have a very difficult fight on his hands if this comes up. The best thing for Barry may be if the House and Senate cannot reconcile the bill. He can blame it on the Republicans and moderate Democrats while at the same time not having to fight the Card Check fight. I guess we will see.

UPDATE 1/17/10
It seems that the Unions have been able to wiggle themselves out of the luxury tax without requiring Card Check. Last estimates were that this would decrease the tax from 149 billion down to about 90 billion. The question is now, will Congress ask the CBO to look over this bill and will it now maintain its "tax neutral" status as the President and Congress promised.

Another thing to watch will be the results of the Brown vs. Coakley election. If Brown wins or even comes close to winning, this will undoubtly scare a lot of blue dog Democrats and Democrats in vulnerable areas. This monstrosity may still not pass. We can only hope.

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