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The Democrat-controlled Congress is already working to roll things back. While otherwise increasing Labor’s budget by $935 million — above what the administration requested — the House has voted to cut funding for the union overseers at OLMS below last year’s level, a rare example of Democratic budget-cutting. The AFL-CIO’s associate general counsel defended the move, telling the Hill that OLMS’s record was overrated and its union corruption statistics were “cooked.” Democrats are also trying to advance “card check” legislation that would end secret ballots for union organizing, despite Chao’s opposition.
SUPPORTERS OF THE ADMINISTRATION’S labor policies are nevertheless optimistic. “I have a lot of faith in the American people,” says Feulner. “Once the sunlight of accountability and transparency shines, that will be very hard to roll back.” Steven Law is more philosophical. “Major changes pursued in the name of ideological principle alone will fall away when new people come into power,” he says. “[Chao] pursued changes in the name of what’s best for workers.”
“People coming into government have a responsibility to be effective,” says Chao, arguing that she thinks the results her team has gotten will make it easier to “institutionalize change.” And that might be a lesson for other conservatives hoping to rebuild credibility and hold the reins of power. “If conservatives do not come into the federal government, who will?” she asks. “Who is going to take responsibility for shaping the federal government according to our vision for America if we don’t?”
When President Bush leaves office, conservatives will be eager to distance themselves from the administration’s mistakes. But that shouldn’t keep them from emulating its successes. Count Ed Feulner among the conservatives who think that Chao’s tenure at Labor is part of the latter category. “When the president hands out his last gold medals,” he says, “I do hope she gets one.”
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