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May 05, 2004
Senate Wants Its Own Stamp on New OT Rules
The Senate voted Tuesday to alter the Bush administration's new overtime-exemption rules by guaranteeing overtime pay to those workers now eligible for it under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The legislation also would allow the Labor Department to implement rules guaranteeing more low-wage workers overtime protection, according to the Washington Post.

Republicans attempted to ward off this proposal by voting in an amendment, 99 to 0, which would offer greater overtime protection to 55 categories of workers, including teachers and nurses. In the end, both amendments were voted in by the Senate.

The newspaper calls it an "embarrassing rebuff" to the Bush administration, which issued final overtime rules just two weeks ago. The administration had been lobbying members of Congress to reject the measure.

Five Republicans joined with Democrats to approve the blocking measure 52 to 47. "This was a great victory for American workers and families," says Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, who proposed the blocking measure added as an amendment to a corporate tax bill.

Last year, the Senate also voted to reject the proposal for the new overtime rules, but that legislation was dropped during House-Senate negotiations after White House pressure.

After receiving heavy criticism on the initial draft for overhauling the white-collar exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Labor Department scaled back its plan. The final rules contained higher salary thresholds for exemptions than those included under the initial proposal, meaning fewer workers would be at risk of losing overtime eligibility.

The rules also add sections that clearly state that "blue collar" workers, police officers, fire fighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and licensed practical nurses are entitled to overtime protection.

Democrats and other critics maintain that even the scaled-back rules would strip overtime from too many workers.

Both issues will move to the House, which approved a blocking measure last year, albeit in a nonbinding vote.

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