Economist Pierre Rinfret projected the measure to have a severe inflationary effect on an already bumpy economy while Carter-administration pollster Pat Caddell showed the President the people wanted unions to have less, not greater power. The Senate, then with a 61 Democratic +1 Independent supermajority needed the help of moderate Democrats to stay in line with with the party in order to avoid being filibustered by the Republicans.
The filibuster endured several weeks and repeated failed attempts by Majority Leader Robert Byrd at cloture, but the last Democratic holdout--a Nebraskan Senator by the name of Ed Zorkinsky seemed on the verge of wavering just before a record-setting sixth cloture vote on a single bill (ten years later Byrd would later push the record to eight attempts in 1988). "Leading the Charge" describes the pressure on Zorinsky thus:
Hatch calls Zorinsky and says he must have his vote today. Zorinsky sounds haunted. Hatch guesses that Byrd worked him over last night, Zorinsky confirms it: "They promised me everything."Yet Zorinsky went on to stick to his convictions and became the deciding holdout vote against big government and big unions when 58 Senators had voted for filibuster-ending cloture and a 59th had announced on the floor his conversion. The bill was defeated and the filibuster held.
"Ed, you didn't give in did you?"
"No, but you can only count me as a mushy no," says Zorinsky, meaning he's still with Hatch--barely. "If I change my mind I'll call you." (p. 98)
When I read this story, I reflected on the contrast to the modern-day story of another Senator from Nebraska--Ben Nelson1--and the infamous "Cornhusker Kickback" he received in exchange for his vote a year ago this month for cloture on another economy-busting Democratic bill: Obamacare.
As 2012 elections slowly begin to roll around, I hope we will not forget the damage Ben Nelson did to our country through his vote and find someone better in Nebraska with Zorinsky-like toughness to vote for what is right.
1 Coincidentally, Nelson occupies the selfsame Class I seat previously held by Zorinsky