Senate Republican leaders have joined an effort to block a child care union vote scheduled for next week.

The Senate Rules Committee, by a 6-1 party-line vote on Thursday, approved a resolution to support a lawsuit by union opponents. The suit seeks to block an election Gov. Mark Dayton has called for among certain in-home child care providers to determine if they want union representation.

The resolution accuses Dayton of exceeding his authority in his Nov. 15 executive order, which set an election for roughly 4,300 of the state's 11,000 in-home licensed providers.

On Monday a group of providers opposed to unionization filed suit to block the order. The committee's action means the GOP-led Senate will file a brief in support of the anti-union lawsuit.

The resolution states that the Senate "has a clear and compelling interest in preventing the Governor from exercising powers reserved to the Legislature under the Minnesota Constitution.'' Republican Senate leaders harshly criticized Dayton's use of executive orders, saying the first-year governor is issuing them at a much faster pace than his predecessors.

"It's great to govern by executive order when you've got a Legislature run by the other party,'' said Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, the deputy Senate minority leader, referring to the DFL governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature. "If he could, he'd want to pass a budget by executive order or build a stadium by executive order.''

The only DFLer present, Sen. Dick Cohen of St. Paul, said Republicans had not objected to even more sweeping executive orders when the issuing governor was a Republican. He said that when Republicans agreed with the substance of Dayton's earlier orders, such as one streamlining rules and regulations, they applauded him. "This is more politics than anything else,'' said Cohen, who cast the only vote against the resolution.

Dayton said that every order he has signed "is for a purpose that I believed in and will stand behind and was lawful, as I was advised by counsel.'' He said the "real issue" is that opponents of the order don't want child care workers to vote on whether or not to be represented by a union. "I think it's another part of the extremism that we've seen from the Tea Party crusade,'' Dayton said.

The dispute involves a six-year attempt by two unions, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Unions, to unionize licensed family child care providers, almost all of whom work out of their homes. The unions have divided the state, so the election, if it occurs, would give providers a choice of whether or not they want to be represented by the union organizing their area.

Ballots are scheduled to be mailed out Wednesday, with votes tabulated in public on Dec. 22. A hearing on the lawsuit seeking to block the vote is scheduled in Ramsey County District Court on Monday.

Jim Ragsdale • 651-925-5042