Graham’s bid to deny NLRB fails

Lindsey Graham

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Wednesday failed in an effort to undercut the National Labor Relations Board’s authority to challenge a company decision on where to locate its work force.

The immediate challenge to the NLRB is focused on the board’s complaint against Boeing Co., which opened a production plant for its 787 Dreamliner in North Charleston.

Democrats, who defeated the move in the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the Republicans were trying to overturn 75 years of labor law designed to protect workers.

The proposal by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. failed on a mostly partisan 15-15 vote. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., supported Graham. All other committee Democrats voted against the amendment to a larger spending bill, while all Republicans supported it.

The tally blunted a vote last week in the Republican-dominated House in favor of undercutting the board’s authority. The Republican effort is unlikely to win approval in the Democratic Senate, but it gives the party a campaign issue for the 2012 elections.

The Appropriations panel also decided to give President Barack Obama just a small fraction of the money he wants to build high-speed rail lines, one of his leading economic priorities.

On a voice vote, the committee included $100 million for the rail program in a massive measure financing 2012 federal transportation and housing programs. Obama wants to spend $8 billion next year for the rail systems, in which trains can travel between cities at up to 250 miles per hour.

No. 2 Senate Democrat Richard Durbin of Illinois said, “We understand the budgetary constraints.” Durbin sponsored the amendment adding the money.

High-speed rail now faces a dismal future in Congress, at least in the short term. A subcommittee in the Republican-run House has approved legislation denying any money for the project next year.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., author of the overall $110 billion transportation and housing bill, included nothing for high-speed rail in the original version of the legislation. She cited tight spending constraints that lawmakers face as they struggle to control ballooning federal deficits.