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Specter deals blow to card check

From NBC's Mark Murray
Did the campaign for the Employee Free Choice Act (a.k.a. "card check") end before it truly began?

It looks like it after Sen. Arlen Specter (R) signaled today that he would vote against cloture on the measure, denying Democrats 60 votes to break a GOP filibuster on the legislation -- even if Al Franken gives Democrats a 59th vote. Specter was the only Republican to vote for cloture on the legislation in 2007.

"The problems of the recession make this a particularly bad time to enact Employees Free Choice legislation. Employers understandably complain that adding a burden would result in further job losses," Specter said on the Senate floor. "If efforts are unsuccessful to give Labor sufficient bargaining power through amendments to the [National Labor Relations Act], then I would be willing to reconsider Employees' Free Choice legislation when the economy returns to normalcy."

Politics, of course, hovered over Specter's decision, especially since he's up for re-election in 2010. Organized labor floated the idea that it would back the Republican in a general election if he supported card check. But supporting the legislation would also potentially hurt him in a GOP primary.

Specter, in fact, referred to the political speculation over his vote in his Senate floor speech. "This announcement should end the rumor mill that I have made some deal for my political advantage. I have not traded my vote in the past and I would not do so now."

Big business cheered Specter's decision. "We applaud the Senator for taking a principled stand to support Main Street employers and workers in Pennsylvania," the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in a statement. (Organized labor has yet to officially react to the news.)

Conservative Pat Toomey, a potential GOP primary challenger to Specter, issued this response: "The difference between Specter's vote on the big government stimulus bill and Specter's vote on card check: a threat in the Republican primary. It's nice to see Sen. Specter reverse his position in a positive direction on card check, but I wish it didn't take primary opposition to get him to do it."