Congress has been busy this week, in the waning days of this year’s session. There’s some good news and some bad news for workers, and believe it or not, the good news is from the House of Representatives, which voted yesterday to support efforts to prevent new overtime regulations from going into effect. The bad news came from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which also voted yesterday to move forward the 5th Circuit nomination of Charles Pickering. However, the fight on both of these fronts is only just beginning.
Overtime: As previously reported here earlier in the week, the House had an opportunity to reverse a prior vote where it narrowly voted to support the new overtime regulations. In the meantime, the Senate had voted to deny funding to implement the overtime regulations. Opponents of the overtime changes were successful in scheduling a non-binding vote in the House that would instruct those members conferring with the Senate to support the inclusion of a proposal denying funding to implement the regulations. In that vote, which occurred on Thursday, October 2, the House voted 221-203 to support the resolution.
This change would not have happened if House members had not heard from their constitutents. Typical of those changing sides is Rep. Todd Tiahrt, a Kansas Republican, who stated when questioned, “This is just one area where I thought it was in the best interest of the people of the 4th District that I support this initiative.” (See Kansas City Star article (registration required).) In Tiahrt’s district is a Boeing facility, where 10,000 white-collar aerospace workers would be affected. Tiahrt said engineers at Boeing Co.’s Wichita facility would see overtime become a bargaining chip “the second their labor agreement expires. They’ll have to give something up in order to regain what they have today.” Over 700 messages to Congress were generated at this site alone, along with all of the messages generated by other organizations on this issue, which the American public cares about strongly.
More pressure on members of the House is needed, however. The House conferees will be under strong pressure from the House leadership and the Administration to omit the overtime-related proposal from the final version of the Labor/HHS/Education appropriations bill. The President has also threatened to veto the funding bill if it contains the overtime provision. However, it is clear that overtime is no longer a strictly partisan issue, and that even House Republicans can be persuaded to dissent from the party line when it is in the interests of their constitutent voters to do so. Please act now to thank supporters for their vote and to encourage them to pressure conferees to follow the will of both the House and Senate majorities to prevent these overtime regulations from ever seeing the light of day. Or some workers will never again see the light of day…as they will be working too many hours without extra compensation to see any sunlight.
Pickering Nomination: On Thursday, October 2, the Senate Judiciary Committee again took up the nomination of Charles Pickering. To no one’s great surprise, the vote was 10-9 to move Pickering’s nomination forward. The committee vote on Pickering in February 2002 was also 10-9, but at that time, it prevented Pickering’s nomination from moving ahead. This vote reflects the changing composition of the committee majority: last year, the Senate and accordingly the committee had a majority of Democratic members, while this year, control has switched to the Republican party.
It is unprecedented for a president to renominate a failed nominee after the control of the Senate has switched from one party to another, and it is not yet clear whether Senate Democrats will allow this effort to succeed, or whether another filibuster will be used to stall Pickering’s nomination indefinitely. Pickering’s nomination has the support of Sen. Jeffords, the Vermont Independent who has tended to vote with Democrats on most nominations, and may have the support of enough Democratic senators to prevent a successful filibuster. (See Washington Post article.) Your voice is needed to ensure that Pickering’s nomination will not move forward before the Senate.