From Steve Benen
WAL-MART THROWS A CURVEBALL.... Three powerful entities announced their support yesterday for including an employer mandate provision in health care reform, a major point of contention in the larger debate. The first two -- the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Center for American Progress -- didn't come as much of a surprise. The third was Wal-Mart.
Yes, that Wal-Mart -- the commercial behemoth and the nation's largest private employer, with a reputation for being less than concerned about employee benefits.
The National Retail Federation, a staunch opponent of an employer mandate, was reportedly "flabbergasted" by the Wal-Mart announcement. Likewise, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was livid. The Hill noted, "The decision by Wal-Mart to break away from the Chamber and its ilk marks the first visible crack in the business coalition on healthcare reform."
Jonathan Cohn describes how this changes the landscape.By endorsing the idea of a employer mandate, Wal-Mart has made the idea more difficult to demonize. It has also -- and I can't stress this enough -- given some political cover to members of Congress who might be sympathetic to the idea of employer mandate but hesitate to take a vote that might be perceived as anti-business.
Now of course what goes unsaid here also is that anything Wal-Mart comes out for its likely that our Democratic Senator from Arkansas Blanche Lincoln will come out for. So there are several reasons to take this as a good sign.