Saturday, September 11, 2004

New Overtime Rules Overturned

In a stunning defeat for conservative corporate mouthpieces, several New England and Midwest area moderate Republicans joined a solid phalanx of Democratic votes to reject the Bush Adminstration's revision of the overtime rules, rules which would not only have cost workers a lot of money but would have begun the process of re-defining the roles of grunts as 'supervisors' and 'salaried employees' who would forever be exempt from extra pay for extra work.

By Dan Morgan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 10, 2004; Page A04

The House voted 223 to 193 yesterday to block the Bush administration's sweeping new eligibility rules for overtime pay, giving Democrats a significant victory that they hope will boost the party's standing among middle-class voters in key battleground states in the fall election.

Twenty-two pro-labor Republicans, most of them from the North and the Midwest, joined a solid bloc of Democrats to prevent the Labor Department from enforcing the regulations, which took effect Aug. 23. But it is unclear whether yesterday's action will stand.

The White House warned this week that President Bush might veto the underlying bill -- a $142.5 billion measure funding education, worker training and health programs in 2005 -- if it contains the overtime amendment.

Last year, the House added a similar provision blocking the rules, but GOP leaders, under strong pressure from the White House, jettisoned it during final House-Senate negotiations on the bill. But repeating that maneuver could be more politically perilous as the election nears, according to some legislative aides.

Business lobbies, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Restaurant Association, favor the new rules, while major labor organizations have been seeking to undo them.

Yesterday's vote came after months of political contention. Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry has vowed to repeal the rules if elected, and Democrats have denounced the regulations as "the biggest pay cut in history." But Republicans contend that Democrats have greatly overstated their impact, and assert that the changes will benefit workers by extending automatic eligibility to as many as 1.3 million new members of the labor force.

"The new rules mean more overtime for more workers," Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said.

Bush's flip-flop on this only makes sense in political terms. Karl Rove must believe that this is one issue the voters they're targeting won't ignore. If Bush is re-elected, Tom DeLay will re-submit the bill the day after, but for now election year has let us dodge a bullet.