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The US Senate Appropriations Committee voted yesterday 16-13 to dump a change to federal overtime rules that has been put into place by the Bush administration, echoing a similar move made last week by the House of Representatives.

However, the rebuke to the White House and Department of Labor was attached to a spending bill that now must be negotiated in a conference committee made up of both Senators and Congressmen, and over which the White House will have a measure of control; expectations are that any language that reverses Administration policy will be deleted.

The regulations are laid out in a complicated 154-page document and say that workers who earn less than $23,660 annually will become automatically eligible for overtime pay, a boost from the current threshold of $8,060, which was established in the 1970s.

However, salaried workers who fall between $23,660 and $100,000 a year might lose overtime based on a duties test, which describes the tasks that determine whether a worker can, for example, be classified as a professional ineligible for overtime. Those making more than $100,000 will lose their overtime rights unless they do not regularly perform professional, administrative or executive duties.

Organized labor believes that ultimately the number of people who qualify for overtime pay will be significantly reduced, a conclusion shared, generally speaking, by the Democratic Party. Business – and the Bush administration – maintains that this is not the case, and that relatively few people will feel the impact in the form of reduced pay.
KC's View:
The question is whether this is meaningful, substantive debate about public policy, or just political posturing as both sides try to shore up support from their base constituencies.

We’d bet on the latter.