This morning could bring a change in whip counts. On Wednesday, President Obama met with Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO to discuss the return of the excise tax debate after the Congressional Budget Office returned less favorable results than expected. Reports are that the AFL-CIO will hold a meeting today, and what they say to the public afterward is of incredible importance.
The Unions passionately staked out a position against the excise tax when it was first debated months ago and progressives have increasingly complained that Democratic leadership makes concession after concession without favor returned from conservative colleagues. With credible whip counts predicting a narrow victory for the future prospects for health care reform, the AFL-CIO could likely pull enough votes to end this. The AFL-CIO has certainly played a part in a lot of elections, and will likely play a part in several more. By no means are they married to the Democrats. If they called on the legislators they helped elect to oppose this bill, you can bet that candidate wants AFL-CIO help in the next campaign. That obviously gives them one big bargaining chip.
The question is, does the President have a carrot he could give them that is significant enough for them to endorse the bill with an increased excise tax and would the President be willing to use that carrot? Ultimately, the AFL-CIO needs to answer to their members. Their members will not be happy with a tax on their health care plans.