This week, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to schedule a key vote on changes to overtime regulations that could affect millions of workers. While the House narrowly defeated a previous effort to overturn proposed overtime regulations, the vote was so close that there is still yet hope that the overtime proposal will be defeated. However, it is critical for the House to hear from millions of workers, to emphasize just how important this issue is for American employees, who rely on overtime to make ends meet and to limit the number of hours spent at work and away from their families.
As reported here previously, when the House previously considered whether to overturn the proposed overtime regulations, the effort to do so was rebuffed in a very close 213-210 vote, in which some Republicans in labor-friendly districts joined the Democrats on the losing side of the battle.
However, in the Senate, believed by many to be the more liberal of the two houses of Congress, opponents of the proposed overtime changes were initially more successful than their colleagues in the House. On September 11, the Senate, in a 54-45 vote, successfully passed an amendment to the appropriations bill funding the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Departments, which would prevent the Department of Labor from spending any money to implement the proposed regulations. (See CBS News article.) Six Republicans split from the rest of their colleagues on the vote: Six Republicans split with the administration on the vote, including three — Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — who are on the ballot in 2004. The other three were Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Ted Stevens of Alaska. Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia was the only Democrat who voted with the Republican minority on the overtime vote. (See AP article.)
Now the issue is back before the House of Representatives, and opponents of overtime changes think they may have an opening, given the closeness of the vote and the absence of several supportive Democrats on the day the previous vote was taken. (See Dow Jones article.) While the previous vote itself will not be revisited, the House can vote to instruct its conferees (the members of the House who will be working with members of the Senate to resolve differences between the houses on the appropriations bill) to join the Senate version of the bill with the overtime-related provision attached. Or it can stick to its guns, which will likely mean the bill will move forward to the President without any overtime-related provisions attached.
Whatever the House ultimately decides to do, and whether it is possible at this point to derail proposed overtime changes remains to be seen. However, the vote is only likely to be swayed from the previous outcome if House members hear from workers who vote. Since the vote could happen on Wednesday, October 1, it is critical to act now and express your opinion to Congress.