It looks like there’s a bit of a Blue Dog rebellion going on in Congress:
Democratic leaders in Congress did not expect much Republican support as they pressed President Obama’s ambitious legislative agenda. But the pushback they are receiving from some of their own has come as an unwelcome surprise.
Already, a pair of provisions in Obama’s budget have attracted determined, if limited, Democratic opposition. One proposal would overhaul the federal student loan program to guarantee yearly increases in the Pell Grant program. That idea enjoys broad Democratic support. But to pay for the Pell Grant expansion, Obama would end federal support for private lending. And one of the major corporate providers of student loans is NelNet, a company based in Lincoln, Neb., the home state of Sen. Ben Nelson, a moderate Democrat who balked at the stimulus package and teamed up with three moderate Republicans to cut $100 billion from the final bill. Cutting off support for NelNet would cost Nebraska about 1,000 jobs, according to Nelson’s office. Nelson said the move could hurt middle-class students who do not qualify for Pell Grants. “I don’t support anything that could reduce those benefits,” Nelson said.
Similar revolts are building against tax changes Obama has proposed, including one to limit deductions that many Democrats privately consider to be a non-starter. Climate-change legislation is months away from emerging, but some Democrats already worry about the political consequences of creating a cap-and-trade system that could result in higher utility bills. Some House Democrats have floated the issue of tariffs on foreign companies — potentially an explosive trade issue — to equalize the cost of a carbon cap.
WASHINGTON — Key Senate Democrats are wavering in their support of legislation that would give more power to labor unions, dealing a setback to labor’s top priority as businesses warn of the damage the bill would cause.
The battle over the “Employee Free Choice Act” — expected to be introduced Tuesday — is seen as a power struggle among labor unions and businesses, as well as a test of whether moderate Democrats and Republicans will push back on Democratic congressional leaders and the Obama administration.
At least six Senators who have voted to move forward with the so-called card-check proposal, including one Republican, now say they are opposed or not sure — an indication that Senate Democratic leaders are short of the 60 votes they need for approval.
The legislation is divisive and distracting, said Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln in an interview Monday. The Democratic lawmaker, who was previously seen as a supporter, said the Senate should focus on creating jobs and improving the U.S. economy. “I have 90,000 Arkansans who need a job, that’s my No. 1 priority,” she said. The legislation, she said, would be “divisive and we don’t need that right now. We need to focus on the things that are more important.”
Sen. Lincoln is one of several moderate Democrats expressing doubts about the Employee Free Choice Act. The bill would allow unions to organize workers without a secret ballot, giving employees the power to organize by simply signing cards agreeing to join. A second provision would give federal arbitrators power to impose contract terms on companies that fail to reach negotiated agreements with unions. Both provisions are strongly opposed by business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.
Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu and Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor are among the Democratic lawmakers who have backed off their previous support.
At the very least, this is likely to force Obama to moderate his agenda if only to keep the Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate united.