Democrats, Unions Hail Vote Against New Overtime Rules

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Democrats were joined by 22 Republicans Thursday to block new overtime regulations that critics say would deny overtime pay for at least 6 million workers.

The vote was 223-193, defying a veto threat from the White House. The sweeping overtime rules were attached as an amendment to a $142 billion measure funding education, worker training and health programs.

The administration believes the rules would improve overtime protection for many more workers than would lose them, the Los Angeles Times reported. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Restaurant Association favor the new rules.

Major labor organizations have been staunchly opposed, as certain administrative and white-collar workers would be exempt from overtime even if they work more than 40 hours. Those workers include computer technicians, journalists, teachers and funeral home employees who arguably can be said to perform management roles.

The outcome of the vote was cheered by Democrats and union leaders. U.S. Rep. George Miller, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, railed against the rules as “the largest single pay cut for hard-working Americans in the nation's history.”

While the proposal has been controversial from the start, one provision sailed through Thursday. Overtime pay is guaranteed to any worker earning less than a base salary of $23,660. The current threshold is $8,060.

The vote prevents the Department of Labor from enforcing the new rules, which went into effect Aug. 23. The department's acting administrator for the wage and hour division, Alfred B. Robinson Jr., told the LA Times that workers who make more than $23,660 a year are "left to fend for themselves, having to hire expensive trial lawyers to defend their overtime pay…. Whether intentionally or not, Congress has turned back the clock nearly 70 years on a fundamental worker protection."

Lobbyists on both sides vowed to keep up the pressure in the Senate, even though it appears doubtful that the measure could pass this year, the Washington Post reported. Election Day is near and too few legislative days are left to handle an issue that is this controversial, observers say.

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