December 10, 2012

Rebecca Cook/Reuters

It’s widely assumed that the battle over “right to work” legislation in Michigan is effectively over — Governor Rick Snyder has said he will sign the law on Tuesday, and it can’t be overturned by referendum (as in Ohio) because of a procedural tactic Republicans used to exempt the law from challenge. But national Dems are not giving up — and they are wading into the battle in a big way today.

I’m told that virtually the entire Democratic Congressional delegation in Michigan is set to privately meet with Snyder today in an effort to persuade him to reconsider the initiative and to find a way out of the impasse. The delegation includes some very senior and influential lawmakers, and their involvement underscores the urgency of the situation for labor and Democrats.

The lawmakers — who include Senator Carl Levin and Reps. John Conyers, John Dingell, and Sander Levin — will try to persuade Snyder that proceeding with the anti-union initiative will badly damage the state and that there is a middle-ground way out of the situation, a labor official familiar with planning tells me. For instance, the official says, they will suggest to Snyder that if he must sign the legislation, then perhaps he can drop the GOP’s procedural tactic and allow it to subsequently come before the people in the form of a referendum. That would at least allow Michigan voters to weigh in on the initiative, perhaps defusing some public anger.

“They’re going to go in and say, ‘Look, this is tearing the state apart. If you want to do this, there are other options. You can put it up for referendum,’” the official says.

Some of these lawmakers were involved in the passing of historic and bipartisan pro-union legislation decades ago, and it is hoped that their seniority will help persuade Snyder that the last thing Michigan needs is a battle as divisive as the one that tore Wisconsin apart for months. Opponents of the initiative argue that Republicans are breaking with the state’s long-held bipartisan consensus holding that unions play a key role in providing a path to the middle class. They say Republicans are siding with ideologically-motivated national anti-union forces and against the interests of Michigan, that their real goal is to cripple a major pillar of Democratic strength in the industrial Midwest, and that their move is a break with bipartisan tradition in a state that gave birth to the United Auto Workers.

So Dems will argue to Snyder today in hopes of getting him to reconsider. Stay tuned…

* Michigan in uproar over “right to work”: To get a sense of how divisive this fight has already become, check out yesterday’s Detroit Free Press editorial, which blisters Governor Rick Snyder for selling out on his promise to be a pragmatic problem solver. The editorial pointedly notes that Snyder has betrayed voters’ “conviction that they were electing someone more independent, and more visionary, than partisan apparatchiks like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker.” Opponents of the move hope Snyder will not prove the same sort of ideologue as Walker has proven to be.

* Obama to weigh in on “right to work” fight? Obama is visiting Michigan today to push his “fiscal cliff” solutions, and it still remains unclear whether he will weigh in on the labor standoff engulfing the state. Labor sources tell HuffPo’s Amanda Terkel that they’ve been told he will weigh in, but the White House is declining to confirm the report or comment on his plans.

* Time is running out on fiscal cliff: Lori Montgomery reports that lawmakers are increasingly convinced that a deal must be reached this week if Congress is going to be able to pass it by the end of the year. And the bare outlines of a deal are taking shape, including this:

Fresh tax revenue, generated in part by raising rates on the wealthy, as Obama wants, and in part by limiting their deductions, as Republicans prefer. The top rate could be held below 39.6 percent, or the definition of the wealthy could be shifted to include those making more than $375,000 or $500,000, rather than $250,000 as Obama has proposed.

 It’s unclear to me whether the White House is prepared to accept this, and it seems likely that this will be seen as a nonstarter by the left, particularly if it is paired with real cuts to Medicare benefits.

 * GOP Senator says it’s time to cave on taxes: The key moment from the Sunday Shows: On Fox, Senator Bob Corker admitted that Republicans “don’t have a lot of cards” to play on taxes, and urged fellow Republicans to agree to raising tax rates on the top two percent, because that will enable them to “shift the focus where it needs to be, which is on entitlements.”

Expect more of this. As I’ve been saying, one likely endgame is for more and more Republicans to come out and say it’s time to acquiesce — as Corker has — allowing Boehner to ultimately give in while telling conservatives he fought the good fight for as long as possible and only gave in when he had no other choice.

 * Another House Republican suggests GOP may give in: This is a key quote, from GOP Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio, a top ally of Boehner:

“I’m willing to stand up against the tax rates unless there’s something on the entitlement side.”

That’s a backdoor way of saying that if Republicans are given entitlements cuts, they will allow the tax rates to go up. It seems all but certain that Republicans will insist on something that targets Medicare beneficiaries in order to declare victory.

* Leverage remains with Dems on taxes: A new Politico poll confirms it yet again:  The public sides with Dems in the fiscal cliff fight. Sixty percent of likely voters — and 58 percent of independents — want taxes raised on those over $250,000. And there’s also this: Fifty eight percent say raising taxes on the rich won’t have a negative impact on the economy. Only 38 percent support the GOP position that it will.

What this data confirms, yet again, is that Dems are the ones who hold the middle ground position in the talks.

* Could gays get the constitutional right to marry? Richard Socarides on the significance of SCOTUS’s decision to hear the Proposition 8 and DOMA cases: If all goes as well as possible, the court could in theory enshrine a constitutional right for gays to marry anywhere in the country by as soon as this spring. And that’s the best possible outcome; most other ones will also advance us further towards the now-all-but-certain conclusion to this decades-long civil rights struggle.

* And will Obama weigh in on constitutionality of gay marriage? A very good point from Chris Geidner: While Obama has come out personally in support of gay marriage, he has not weighed in on the question of whether he believes gays have a constitutional right to marry.

SCOTUS’s hearing of the Prop 8 case may increase pressure on the Obama administration to clarify its views on this point, and could spark criticism from gay advocates, despite his evolution on the issue — because if the administration does weigh in, it could help bring about a better outcome.

 What else?

 

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.