04/01/2011 02:59 pm ET Updated Jun 01, 2011

House GOP Beats Back Effort To Strip Anti-Union Measure From Aviation Bill

WASHINGTON -- On Friday, House Democrats and 16 House Republicans failed to remove a controversial provision from the Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization bill that would make it harder for unions to organize.

By a vote of 206 to 220, lawmakers rejected an effort to take out an amendment introduced by House Transportation Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) that was being heavily pushed by union officials and the White House. The amendment returns union election rules to pre-2009 rules that automatically count workers who do not vote in union elections as votes against union representation.

With Mica’s language part of the bill, the FAA’s re-authorization was passed by full house shortly thereafter by a vote of 223 to 196. Whether the amendment will survive the whole legislative process now becomes the focal point for labor operatives. Several prominent Senate Democrats have already pledged to remove the Mica amendment from the final bill when the two chambers merge their respective versions together. The President, too, has said that he has been advised to veto the legislation if it includes the anti-union language.

Union officials sounded a relatively upbeat note immediately after Friday’s vote. While the amendment to remove Mica’s language –- sponsored by Reps. Steven LaTourette (R-OH) and Jerry Costello (D-IL) –- failed to pass, it did win the backing of 16 Republican members, with an additional four Republicans declined to vote at all. In contrast, only two Democrats declined to vote on the measure -- none voted in support of the amendment.

One union official who had been lobbying members to remove Mica’s language relayed that Republican leadership had been forced to exert a notable amount of arm-twisting simply to keep their caucus together. Even then, there were defections. LaTourette, a close ally of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), felt emboldened enough on the matter to denounce the Mica amendment on the floor Thursday night as another stage in a “whack-a-union” campaign.