News that Sen. Arlen Specter will face a primary challenge for the 2010 Senate race has prompted a bit of concern among those hoping that he would serve as a moderate, bi-partisan ally for Democrats in Congress.
On the Employee Free Choice Act in particular, Specter has been labor's highest-profile GOP target, having been the only Republican senator to cross party lines when the legislation was considered in last year's Congress. With the wrath of a primary challenger upon him, the possibility of Specter recanting on his previous position has become a bit firmer.
Alas, labor officials aren't that concerned, saying they may not even need Specter in order to get a 60th vote for cloture. Asked about how a primary campaign in Pennsylvania could affect the future of EFCA, AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale referred the Huffington Post to a recent conference call in which the union's director of government affairs, Bill Samuel, said that people "should not assume" that Specter is the only Republican who might vote for cloture.
Another labor official, when asked to speculate on the matter, offered this: "Business was so busy trying to harass Pryor, Lincoln, and Landrieu, they forgot to tend to their own backyard."
If, in fact, Democrats have the support of another Republican senator on EFCA it would go a long way towards ensuring the legislation's passage. It would also bolster claims - as made by several union officials - that the labor community is very confident that it has the 60 votes needed for cloture.
Who could that second Republican be? The chatter among those following this debate seems centered around Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska and, to a far lesser extent, one of the two moderates in Maine. All of which is not to say that the whip-counters in union shops are writing Specter off.
"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," emails the aforementioned labor official. "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."
UPDATE: Republican operative Danny Diaz, who is pushing for the defeat of EFCA, rightfully points out that Murkowksi and Susan Collins of Maine both helped filibuster the legislation in 2007 and that Olympia Snowe, also of Maine, recently reiterated her opposition to the bill.
Moreover, as the Huffington Post recently reported, not all officials working on EFCA's passage are convinced that Democrats will be 100 percent united when it comes to a vote. That said, the situation is fluid and union hands are sounding confident about getting at least one Republican (not including Specter) to switch sides.