House votes for 6-month delay of overtime rule

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House votes for 6-month delay of overtime rule
House votes for 6-month delay of overtime rule

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that would move from Dec. 1 to June 1 the effective date of a final rule set to double the salary threshold under which most salaried workers would be guaranteed overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours per week. President Barack Obama, however, said he would veto the legislation if it also passes in the Senate and reaches his desk.

H.R. 6094, the Regulatory Relief for Small Businesses, Schools, and Nonprofits Act, passed 246-177. Five Democrats were among those voting for it.

The overtime rule, finalized by the Department of Labor in May, changes the salary threshold for overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476 per year, and that threshold would be updated automatically every three years. Under the changes, 4.2 million additional workers would become eligible for overtime pay, according to the Labor Department. The government forecast that the rule would increase wages by $12 billion over the next 10 years. The rule is opposed by several associations representing senior living operators.

In a statement released Tuesday, Obama said his administration “strongly opposes” delaying the rule's effective date.

“While this bill seeks to delay implementation, the real goal is clear — delay and then deny overtime pay to workers,” the statement said. “With a strong economy and labor market, now is a good time for employers to provide these essential protections for workers, who cannot afford to wait.”

House Rules Committee member Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) expressed the same sentiment at a Tuesday committee hearing where H.R. 6094 was discussed. “I think that the strategy, obviously, is to try to extend the clock,” he told fellow members. “I think you guys are hoping that your candidate will win the presidency and maybe undo this [rule].”

The committee's chairman, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), said that H.R. 6094 would prevent businesses from having to lay off workers at the holidays because they couldn't afford the increased expenses associated with the rule. McGovern, however, countered: “If my Republican friends had their way and they were able to stop this [rule], we could basically tell a lot of workers that we took $600 million of our their pockets right around the holidays.”

With 54 Republicans, 44 Democrats and two independent members who caucus with the Democrats in the Senate, passage of the bill there is not necessarily assured, and it may not even reach the floor for a vote. The overtime rule in its current form, however, does face opposition from Democrats, as evidenced by the five House Democrats who voted for H.R. 6094.

The rule also faces additional challenges. For instance, four members of the House “Blue Dog Coalition,” an official House caucus of 15 fiscally conservative Democrats, in July introduced a bill that would phase in the rule's salary threshold over three years. And last week, 21 states' attorneys general, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and more than 50 other national and Texas business groups filed legal challenges to the rule. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, however, said he is confident that the rule will survive the lawsuits.

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