In a bit of good news, it really does appear that Congressional Dems are standing firm in a fight that’s emerged as central for organized labor: The battle over the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration.
For now, anyway.
With tensions between labor and the Democratic Party running high over various policy let-downs endured by unions, the fight over the FAA has emerged as a key way for Dems — if they hold firm — to ensure that unions have a reason to work hard for national Dems in 2012.
I’m now told that the DCCC plans to make this showdown an issue in the districts of 50 House GOPers — who are pushing a version of FAA authorization that’s opposed by organized labor.
The dispute centers on the House GOP’s insistence that the reauthorization of the FAA make it harder for unions to organize. The House passed an FAA reauthorization bill that would reverse an earlier policy that would allow union efforts to organize airlines to be decided by simple majority vote. Unions have pressed Democrats hard not to pass the House bill, and so far, they have agreed; this, plus other sticking points, led to the impasse over reauthorization.
The Obama administration is pushing Congress hard to pass a temporary extension of the FAA authorization in an effort to return 4,000 FAA employees and 70,000 others to work.
Senate Democrats already offered a temporary extension without other provisions opposed by House Republicans, but Senate Republicans blocked that effort, suggesting that for Republicans this is all about weakening unions.
The DCCC is now going on the offensive over the issue, blasting out releases in the districts of 50 House Republicans slamming them for going on recess without agreeing to the “clean” temporary reauthorization. “Representative Chip Cravaack called it quits and closed shop in Washington without resolving the FAA shutdown, which has thousands of workers on furlough, safety inspectors working without pay, and millions lost in revenue by the day,” reads the DCCC release sent out in Cravaack’s district.
The question, though, is whether Dems will continue to hold firm after the recess against any long-term FAA reauthorization that contains the anti-union provision. The long-term proposal is now in conference negotiations.
Dems could use this battle as a way to further isolate House Republicans, because even some moderate Republicans are infuriated by the House GOP’s insistence on tying the reauthorization to unrelated policy fights. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, for instance, said the move is “not honorable.”
More important, if national Dems refuse to budge, it would be a good way for them to repair relations with unions and give them a reason to get energized in Federal races next year at a time when it makes more sense for organized labor to channel resources into state-level battles.
UPDATE: NRCC spokesman Paul Lindsay responds:
“It’s ironic that the same House Democrats who opposed the FAA extension are now engaged in a desperate attempt to point fingers instead of demanding that Harry Reid and Senate Democrats save the thousands of jobs that are in limbo right now. This is further proof that, when it comes to jobs, Democrats have no record to back up their pathetic and tired talking points.”