What: All Issues : Labor Rights : Rights of Individuals in the Workplace : A vote on passage of a Democratic amendment to a corporate tax overhaul bill (S. 1637) that would prohibit the Labor Department from spending any money to implement a plan by the Bush White House that would take overtime rights away from workers. (2004 senate Roll Call 79)
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A vote on passage of a Democratic amendment to a corporate tax overhaul bill (S. 1637) that would prohibit the Labor Department from spending any money to implement a plan by the Bush White House that would take overtime rights away from workers.
senate Roll Call 79     May 04, 2004
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Win

Progressives scored a crucial victory, helping propel through the Senate an amendment offered by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to a corporate tax overhaul bill (S. 1637) that would prohibit the Labor Department from spending any money to implement a plan by the Bush White House that would take overtime rights away from workers. Progressives insisted on a vote on the Harkin amendment, and managed to secure it after holding up debate on S. 1637. In so doing, amendment proponents pushed the Senate to reject administration efforts to alter rules governing overtime pay by a vote of 52-47, with a handful of Republicans voting in favor of the Harkin language. The Bush administration says the new rules deny overtime pay only to a few hundred thousand Americans, many already earning six-figure incomes, while 1.3 million more white-collar workers, currently under salary, will be able to claim overtime pay. The regulations include overtime pay guarantees for all workers earning $23,660 annually or less. But the new rules also exempt from overtime pay all employees earning $100,000 dollars or more, if they meet certain tests. But Democrats say the action is part of a "middle class squeeze" that has seen working families struggle to make ends meet as wealthier Americans benefit from tax cuts tilted toward the top of the income scale. And progressives further countered that the Bush administration's assessment was faulty and that as many as four million workers might lose overtime pay under the department's new proposal, in part because of language used to define how work is classified. Harkin's amendment would, in effect, leave overtime rules as they are but would allow the provisions expanding eligibility for low-income workers to take effect. His amendment also was adopted 54-45 in September 2003 during the Senate's debate on Labor Department appropriations, and the next month the House voted, 221-203, for a non-binding motion putting that chamber on record in support of Harkin's language. But, under the threat of a presidential veto, the language was dropped at the end of that year. Passage of Harkin's amendment as part of S. 1637 again raises the specter of a presidential veto, and conservative House lawmakers already have vowed to keep it out of their corresponding corporate tax overhaul bill. However, passage of the Harkin language by the Senate at least guarantees that the amendment will be on the bargaining table when the two chambers meet to reconcile their differing versions of S. 1637, and therefore raises the prospects that it will be in the final version of the compromise legislation. Conservatives of both chambers object to the Harkin language, saying it would prevent the Department of Labor from issuing any new overtime regulations, an allegation that backers of the Harkin language said was false. Said Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), "The facts are that the overtime protection amendment would allow the Department of Labor to issue any new overtime regulation as long as it did not restrict the eligibility for overtime pay. Overtime pay in this country has been the rule for more than half a century. Why suddenly do we want to take it away? That would be wrong." Conservatives insisted that the Bush administration has no intention of taking away workers' overtime and that the administration's proposed rules do not cut overtime. But if that is the case, Reid asked, "Why would the administration be opposing this amendment so strongly?" Harkin called the Bush administration's final rule "a frontal attack on the 40-hour workweek," and said it is "bad economic policy."

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