House blocks overtime vote sought by Democrats

For Immediate Release:

May 18, 2004

Contact:Jim Abrams

Associated Press

For the second time in a week, House Republicans have blocked a Democratic attempt to force an election-year vote on the Bush administration's new overtime pay rules.

Tuesday's vote, 216-199, barred an effort by Democratic Rep. George Miller of California to get a vote on the new rules, which take effect in August. Miller's provision would require the Labor Department to retain the eligibility of all workers who currently qualify for overtime pay. The House had also rebuffed Miller's effort last week.

The GOP-controlled Senate approved a similar measure earlier this month.

Had Miller succeeded in the House, the overtime vote would have been largely symbolic, and would not have changed the new regulations. But it would have forced members of Congress to take a stand in an election year on a pocketbook issue important to many voters and labor unions, a key Democratic constituency.

If House Democrats could get the measure to a vote, "we think it would prevail," said Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House Democratic whip.

Labor Department officials say the changes will clarify the complex overtime rules and reduce the increasing number of lawsuits against employers by workers challenging their status.

The new regulation will exempt about 100,000 workers now eligible for overtime pay, department officials said. But Democrats and labor unions claim the number will be much higher.

Organized labor has lobbied furiously to kill the regulation.