Reid: Congress to hold off action on Employee Free Choice Act bill

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)

The Employee Free Choice Act is, at least for the time being, off the table, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) told the crowd at a Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce meeting Wednesday.

The Senate has too many other things on its plate to tackle the legislation, Reid told the gathering of businessmen. This marks a temporary victory for business groups, which have opposed the pro-union legislation. Nursing home industry groups have traditionally opposed the bill. Once a contentious, hot-button issue, the act has fallen out of the public eye in recent months, as healthcare reform has heated up in Congress and around the country. 

Reid also discussed healthcare reform at the meeting. While bipartisanship is still a possibility, Reid acknowledged that at some point Democrats might simply have to cut the Republicans out of the picture in order to pass it. Earlier this year, the Senate put in place the mechanism to pass healthcare reform more easily. Budget reconciliation rules would allow the chamber to pass a bill with 51 votes, rather than the 60-vote filibuster-proof majority currently required. Reid said he will continue to work for a couple weeks at bipartisan reforms, but if no compromise can be reached, he and his fellow Democrats will have to access the reconciliation process.

Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) echoed a similar sentiment about bipartisanship in an interview with Kaiser Health News service last week. Speaking to the news outlet at his own town hall meeting in Iowa, Grassley, too, acknowledged that it was unlikely that the Senate could pass bipartisan healthcare reform. But while Reid asserted that Republican obstructionism is to blame for bipartisan breakdowns, Grassley contends that fears over excessive spending certain reform proposals tie conservatives' hands when it comes to making a deal.

There's "a lot of fear out there," Grassley told Kaiser.