Saturday, June 24, 2006


Sue Kelly Flip Flops: Part II - How to Create a Phony Voting Record

A case study in how a Republican creates a phony voting record in an election year.

In Part I, we showed how Sue Kelly initially proposed legislation to help the Air Traffic Controllers, and then let it die in her Committee, even though it already had majority support. In this Part II, we look at how she set this up to create the appearance of voting pro-labor, while in fact abandoning a labor union that had been friendly to her.

First, let’s back up. Air traffic controllers are those highly skilled individuals who work in the highest stress job imaginable: keeping America’s aircraft from colliding in our busy skies. Air traffic controllers work in regional control centers around the country. They are employed by the Federal Aviation Administration, a civilian agency. They have the right to negotiate, through their union, for a contract. But under current law, if the FAA is free to declare those negotiations at an impasse and then, after a waiting period, impose its own contract, unilaterally. The union has no recourse, and the members basically have the choice of accepting it, or finding another career.

No wonder, then, that the Air Traffic Controllers Union would want a change in the law so that at least they would have access to arbitration, instead of being just presented with the FAA’s take-it-or-leave. So, in a remarkable show (watch that word, show) of bipartisanship, Sue’s House Aviation Committee fashioned a very balanced bill, HR 4755, which would have provided for arbitration in the event of an impasse in negotiations. That way, both sides would have incentive to be reasonable and bargain in good faith.

Now comes the tricky part: a clear majority of the House signed on as co-sponsors or supporters of this bill, so they can all tell their union friends what a good thing they had done for Organized Labor. But, as we explained in Part I, even though a majority claimed to support HR 4755, Sue took that bill – her own bill!—and bottled it up in Committee to die.

And, in a sleight of hand worthy of the best stage magician, Republican Congressman Tourette introduced a different bill on the floor of the House, HR 5449, which, though on the same subject, provided for an extended period of negotiations, but did not contain the arbitration provision. That way, there was no risk of a real pro-labor bill coming upon the floor of the House.

And, to make matters worse, the substitute Tourette bill was introduced under a special House Rule that required a supermajority for it to pass. It failed, but because of the requirement that it needed a supermajority, it was possibly for lots of folks to vote for it, without any fear that it would actually pass.

And in this way, it was possible for lots of folks, like Sue Kelly, to claim to have been pro-labor, to claim to have supported HR 4755, which Sue let die, and even to claim to have supported the (weaker) substitute Tourette bill (which died). See? Labor gets screwed, and yet everybody can claim to be pro-labor, just by manipulating what actually comes out of committee and what actually comes to a vote and where.

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