Blood Sport

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March 10, 2009 11:16 a.m.

Fun times for senators from Arkansas.

From MarketWatch

Citigroup Inc. lowered its rating on Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to hold from buy on Tuesday, citing concern that legislation intended to make it easier for employees to unionize would raise the retail giant’s labor costs and hurt its competitiveness.

Kos has a post up saying that it’s wrong to think that EFCA needs 60 votes rather than a mere 50 votes, figuring that several senators will vote against EFCA on the actual bill but vote for cloture (where the 60 rule actually applies.) That’s what Lieberman did on Alito, for instance.

Kos has a much better handle on vote-counting and the mechanics of these kinds of things than I do. And I hope he’s right because EFCA is extremely important. But I’m not as optimistic as he is that 60 isn’t the threshold. Two of the key votes are Lincoln and Pryor from Arkansas, a very lightly unionized state where Walmart is headquartered. Walmart doesn’t care about optics on this. This is the real deal for them, as the Citigroup downrating makes clear. I don’t see them being thrown by pulling a Lieberman and voting ‘wrong’ where it counts and ‘right’ where it doesn’t count.

That works in a case where the audience is voters. So for instance, if a really unpopular bailout bill comes up, I could see a lot of senators voting for cloture but not having the stomach for the real vote. Because what you’re worried about is mass opinion and 30 second tv ads. But this isn’t like that. For the Arkansan senators, this is a constituency of one. And for other senators, it may be a little less clear since there’s not one dominant company. But there are still key businesses that this means a lot too.

For the folks these senators are worried about offending, ticking off — those people are hip to how the procedural niceties work. And they want to know who their friends are.

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