Checking McCotter: His admission of error about card check

National Journal and other news outlets have flagged newly announced GOP presidential candidate Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.) as a pro-labor Republican — and, indeed, the dryly funny Congressman did vote in favor of The Employee Free Choice Act once upon a time. The EFCA — or “card check” — would, of course, have eliminated the secret ballot process, allowing unions to form as long as enough people sign cards saying they want a union. As Manny Lopez of puts it, “It’s pure union payoff legislation.”

But McCotter now says his vote for the EFCA was a mistake.

U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter told me Friday his vote for union payoff legislation was a mistake and that if he were going to vote on “card check” legislation again, he would vote no.

“It was all because of Wisconsin,” he said in reference to what prompted him to change his mind about supporting legislation that would allow unions to forgo that pesky little detail called democracy (card check allows unions to be established in a work place with signatures on cards instead of secret ballot elections). “As a Federalist, what happened in Wisconsin made me realize that EFCA (the Employee Free Choice Act) was something that should be decided on the state level.”

So, does this represent a mature admission of error on McCotter’s part — or just a politically expedient “out” to reassure voters he wouldn’t be a president in the pocket of the unions? Lopez thinks it’s the former, writing, “No matter the timing, it’s good to hear he has realized that his past support was misguided, and his mea culpa puts him squarely in the camp of contenders (Tim Pawlenty) who have admitted they made mistakes in supporting some bad initiatives.”

Certainly, it’s refreshing to encounter a politician who will say explicitly he’s had it wrong in the past. How many strategists openly advised former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to openly disavow RomneyCare, to admit plainly that it was ineffective? But why did McCotter think card check was a wise idea in the first place? Lopez has the answer to that one, as well:

I suspected then and still do today that he voted that way because his district is heavily blue and he needed to do so to represent his constituents and in doing so didn’t hurt the GOP because the measure didn’t have a chance of passing.

That sort of thing happens all the time in Congress, of course, and perhaps a case could be made that McCotter was right to prioritize his constituents’ concerns as he voted. But in general, such politically-motivated votes seem to me inexcusable, as the federal government is supposed to act in terms of what will benefit the country as a whole.

McCotter’s federalist argument and card check flip flop come as a welcome change — but I’m still a little wary and will certainly look to see confirming signs of this new mindset in Mr. McCotter as he mounts his campaign.