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Obama signing legislation, which might not happen to the FAA bill. (

Wednesday evening, the White House issued a veto threat of major legislation, the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, if it still includes the anti-union measure the House Transportation Committee passed. The measure would undermine union organization votes, counting any non-vote by an eligible employee as a "no" vote.

In a statement of administration policy offered by the Office of Management in Budget, the White House made clear its opposition to an amendment that would revert the law back to its previous language, making it so that if an eligible voter fails to vote for union representation, he or she would be tallied against representation.

“If the President is presented with a bill that would not safeguard the ability of railroad and airline workers to decide whether or not they would be represented by a union based upon a majority of the ballots cast in an election or that would degrade safe and efficient air traffic, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill,” the statement reads. “The Administration wishes to address these and other concerns as FAA reauthorization legislation moves through the legislative process.”

The statement was not a veto pledge. The language simply states that the president will be advised to veto the bill should it include the controversial provision. But coming one day before the House of Representatives is set to vote on whether to remove the amendment, sponsored by House Transportation Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), from bill, the statement is nevertheless significant.

Aides on the Hill and operatives close to the issue hinted on Wednesday they expected the vote to be tight, with GOP leadership not entirely sure if it had the numbers to stop Mica’s amendment from being removed.

As David Waldman wrote earlier, it's got a bit of an out for the White House. "That is, instead of saying . . . that if presented with such a bill the president would veto it, this [says], 'the President's senior advisers would recommend' that he veto it." The vote is today, with the amendment [pdf] stripping the language offered by Reps. LaTourette (OH) and Costello (IL).

The veto sort of threat could work two ways: encourage those GOP members who are already squeamish about the provision (it passed with a one-vote margin out of committee) not wanting to make this a bigger fight. Or it could unite Republicans against the president. That's on the House side. In conference committee with the Senate, which does not have the union-busting measure in its version of the bill, the threat could strengthen the hand of Senate conferees to strip it there. That's if the provision isn't stripped today.

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