They couldn’t muster the 60th vote, says Senator Tom Harkin, D.-Iowa, one of the sponsors of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which detractors have dubbed the Employee Forced Choice Act.

The 60th vote needed to choke off a filibuster over the measure belonged to Ted Kennedy, but when Harkin phoned Kennedy’s doctor to get the okay for him to spend three days in the capital, the good doc said no. His patient was too ill.

It’s not clear what was in the version of EFCA that was set to become law, and Harkin ain’t talkin’.

Business groups, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have focused on the so-called card check provision of EFCA, which would allow for unionization to take place once organizers obtained signatures from more than 50 percent of affected workers. But an even more ominous and onerous provision would force a union contract down the company’s throat if three months of negotiations with the union didn’t result in any agreement.

Harkin had this to say:

"I will not say [what was in the bill] because it was closely held, it never leaked out and it still hasn’t," Harkin said. "I took it off the front-burner and put it on the back-burner so it is still on warm, OK?"

In other words, look for the bill to haunt the halls of Congress once again after whatever happens to health care finally happens.