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GOP Senators Try To Force Vote on Dukakis’ Plant Closing Law

June 29, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Senate Republicans on Wednesday tried to make Democrats vote against a Massachusetts plant closing law touted by presidential candidate Michael Dukakis as the price for allowing federally mandated layoff notices.

Democrats balked, calling the maneuver a ″triviabuster.″ But the GOP move temporarily delayed further action on a bill to require 60 days advance notice of plant closings and layoffs affecting 50 or more workers.

Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., took the bill off the floor and said he would reconvene the Senate next Wednesday, cutting short 11 days of uninterrupted campaigning many lawmakers had planned over an extended July Fourth holiday.

But there were doubts that enough of the 46 Republicans would show up then to permit votes on ending what Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., called a ″triviabuster’ by the GOP through the use of several trivial amendments.

Byrd on Wednesday could muster only 58 - all 53 voting Democrats plus five Republicans - of the 60 votes needed to end six days of debate and bring the bill to a final vote.

″If there is an agreement from the other side that we can pass the bill today, I’m receptive,″ Byrd said. ″But we’re not going to sit around here and fiddle-faddle with these little amendments that don’t mean anything.″

Byrd made the remarks after Senate Republican leader Bob Dole of Kansas said he planned to introduce a substitute bill that mirrored the 1984 state plant closing notice law that Dukakis won as Massachusetts governor.

Dukakis boasted throughout the presidential primaries that because of his efforts Massachusetts is ″the one state that has a comprehensive plant closing law.″

But labor leaders and other critics claim the Massachusetts law has no teeth because employers are only requested - not required - to give advance notice as a condition for obtaining state economnic development aid.

″Let’s vote on the Dukakis plan. Let’s see how many votes he has,″ Dole said. ″He’s for giving notice in his state, but he wants to give it voluntarily.″

Dole said he thinks President Reagan would sign a bill seeking voluntary rather than mandatory notices and offering incentives rather than fines as an inducement.

Vice President George Bush has endorsed a similar measure that would condition federal contracts and tax incentives to companies on a pledge to voluntarily provide advance layoff notices as part of their affirmative action hiring plans.

Democrats had hoped to win both Senate and House passage of the bill before recessing for the July Fourth holiday. That would give Reagan 10 days to exercise his expected veto and Congress enough time to vote on overriding it before the Democratic National Convention opens July 18 in Atlanta.

″This is a priority for the Democratic convention ... but somehow those plans have failed,″ Dole quipped. ″I know that it’s big on organized labor’s list and they have a lot of clout in this body.″

AFL-CIO leaders had threatened to withdraw their pivotal support for a revised plant closing bill that Reagan vetoed last month because of the layoff notices if Congress did not first vote on the plant closing provisions as a separate measure.

Byrd denied that he is ″dancing to the tune of organized labor,″ saying he promised AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland, United Auto Workers President Owen Bieber and United Mine Workers President Richard Trumka only to put another trade bill on Reagan’s desk.

Byrd acknowledged that a trade bill unincumbered by a plant closing provision is not likely to win Senate approval without completing congressional action on the layoff notices first.

″After the Democratic convention, maybe after the Republican convention, we can do the trade bill,″ he said.

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