Major Labor Organizations Withhold Support For Senate Bill…For Now

December 16, 2009 7:47 a.m.

The SEIU was supposed to join AARP and pro-reform organizations this morning in urging an end to the filibuster of the Senate health care bill. But they didn’t show.

It turns out that they’re not so sure they want to give the bill their implicit endorsement.

“We were supposed to do a press conference this morning with AARP, etc. around supporting the cloture vote,” says an SEIU official. “We decided yesterday that it would be imprudent.”

“Tonight, we’re holding an emergency meeting with our executive board…to at least start the discussion of how we are to proceed,” the official said. “It’s a come to Jesus moment.”

By what the official insists is a complete coincidence, the AFL-CIO is holding a similar meeting.An official with AFL says the group’s executive council is weighing the pros, cons, and unknowns in the Senate bill, as they determine their official position. The council could ultimately “oppose, support, or be neutral [to]” the bill.

The basic issue is this: Both groups are well aware that the bill lacks crucial elements that they want (chiefly a public option), and contains elements that they strongly oppose (chiefly, the excise tax on generous health insurance policies). And at the same time, the groups don’t know how the bill will change after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid passes his manager’s amendment.

As such, the groups agreed separately to do what they always do in such circumstances: leave the final call to the executive boards.

No decisions are expected tonight, given that the manager’s amendment is still being crafted. And though it seems unlikely that major labor organizations will actively oppose this bill, this is a pretty clear sign that they’re not exactly happy with how things have shaken out in the upper chamber.

Late update: Sam Stein has more on this.

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