POLITICS
04/19/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Pressure On Specter Over EFCA Could Backfire

Labor leaders and Democratic officials are growing concerned that pressure placed on Sen. Arlen Specter to support the Employee Free Choice Act could backfire. Though they add that it could work both ways, with the business community also bearing down hard on the Pennsylvania Republican.

Noting that Specter is known for his political unpredictability and propensity for dramatics, the worry beginning to surface is that early entreaties for the Senator's support may have the opposite effect.

In the past few weeks, news was leaked and then confirmed that Specter would receive the support of several major labor unions in his upcoming reelection battle if, in exchange, he backed the Employee Free Choice Act on a cloture or up-and-down vote. Specter, who was the one Republican Senator to vote for cloture when the issue arose in 2007, has held his cards close in light of this and other lobbying (Republican officials have let it be known that he will be abandoned in his primary should he support EFCA). But he hasn't been as coy about how he feels being at the epicenter of a fierce legislative battle.

"I've made no deals," he told KDKA radio in Pittsburgh about the union overtures. "And I do not make deals like that.'"

A few days later, appearing on MSNBC, Specter again restated that he has not come down, one way or another, on the current EFCA debate. But he added that his swing-vote status was "getting a little monotonous" and openly lamented the pressure coming from within his own party.

"They are threatening [me]," he said of Pennsylvania and national Republicans. "The guy who ran against me in a one percent primary last time [Pat Toomey], was going to run for governor. With the stimulus vote, he is going to run for Senate. The state committee has a censure motion. They may not support me. But that's the pay-grade ... I'll vote my conscience."

The potential decision by Toomey, a former congressman and Club for Growth president, to challenge Specter again could indeed add an interesting ripple to the EFCA debate. It also may prove just how unpredictable the Senator can be under acute political pressure.

"There are two schools of thought from people here," said the Democrat. "The minority view is that like most politicians, if they are challenged on their flank in the primary, they move more towards the right or left to preempt it. The majority view is that Specter is Specter and he loves doing his own thing and H-A-T-E-S when the right tries to pressure him, so this could help solidify his support."