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September 04, 2003
Senator Tries to Block Overtime Changes

As Congress returned from break this week, Democrats in the Senate renewed their opposition to proposed changes to the rules governing overtime.

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Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) says he may have enough votes to block the revisions with an amendment to a spending bill, Reuters reports.

"I think we've got the votes," says Harkin. "It's going to be close."

The House voted against a similar effort in July.

The proposed new overtime rules continue to be a divisive issue, with proponents of the changes contending that the overtime provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act need updating to make it clear who is eligible and opponents saying millions of workers would lose their overtime pay under the proposal.

The Bush administration says the proposed rules would simplify regulations and make 1.3 million lower-income workers automatically eligible for the overtime premium when they work over 40 hours. The administration estimates that about 644,000 white-collar workers could lose overtime pay under the proposed rules.

Opponents of the changes contend that over 8 million white-collar workers would lose their overtime, citing a study from a liberal think tank.

Harken says he believes he has 46 or 47 votes from Democrats and three to six votes from Republicans for his measure, the news agency reports. The news agency notes that even if the Senate passes Harkin's measure, the legislation would still have to survive the House-Senate conference committee.

The AFL-CI0, the nation's biggest labor group with 13 million members, announced a television ad campaign in support of Harkin's effort.

On the other side of the debate is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the country's largest business group with more than 3 million members. It says the administration changes are needed to update antiquated work rules.

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