TSA 3: Screeners’ Union Passes in Senate

The Republicans backed off their threat to filibuster the provision of the anti-terrorism bill that would give airport screeners the right to unionize, and on Monday the Senate, too, passed the bill.

The Senate voted Tuesday to give 45,000 airport screeners the same union rights as other public safety officers, despite vigorous opposition by Republicans and a veto threat from the White House.

A broad anti-terrorism bill that would implement the remaining recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission includes a provision that would give airport screeners the right to bargain collectively. An amendment by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., would have removed that right, but was defeated by a vote of 51-46.

The Senate expects to complete work on the bill by the end of the week.

DeMint, a far-right whacko who ran a stealth campaign in South Carolina pretending to be a moderate, hasn’t quit, though.

After his amendment was defeated, DeMint said Democrats had turned the anti-terrorism bill into a reward for organized labor, which had helped elect them in November.

“Collective bargaining will not work for our airports,” DeMint said. He said strengthening airport screeners’ rights would hinder the government’s flexibility to move them around in response to terrorist threats.

That’s nonsense and DeMint knows it but nevertheless he’s promising to get the provision killed in the conference committee.

Republicans pledged to eliminate the union provision when negotiators sit down to merge the two versions of the legislation that aims to tighten security for airlines and railroads. The White House issued a statement last week threatening a veto if the labor provision is left in the bill.

“We’re not going to let big labor compromise national security,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., noting there are not enough votes in either the House or the Senate to override a veto by President Bush.

Whether they can do that or not is an open question, but it doesn’t look good. A couple of Pubs crossed over to vote for the bill, which probably means the Republicans don’t have the votes to kill it without the veto.

Which may also be the reason they decided not to filibuster after all – they’re counting on the veto to do what they can’t. Still, a Bush veto isn’t necessarily a sure thing. Bush has gone out of his way the last month or so to pretend he’s a reasonable compromiser and bipartisan. He’s also been making statements claiming he’s for the working man and dropping his opposition to the minimum wage bill after it passed (though, of course, he had the excuse that the Pubs had larded the bill with more tax breaks for business). On the TSA provision, he’s trying to frame it as a “national security” issue, but Lieberman’s hearings (credit where credit is due, this might be the only good thing Lieberman does this year) pretty much scotched that argument. He risks looking awfully two-faced if he vetoes it after that, and there goes all his PR down the toilet.

Or they might be saving their firepower for the much more important job of killing the EFCA, which is coming up momentarily. Sometimes you have to prioritize which pro-working man measure you want to fight against.

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