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By Chris Opfer
Sept. 13 — A bill initially sponsored by a handful of Democrats that would slow the Labor Department’s overtime rule is getting a tepid response from two of the leading Republicans on the House Education and Workforce Committee.
The legislation, H.R. 5813, has garnered interest from business groups that want Congress to do anything it can to stop or slow the rule (RIN:1235-AA11) before it goes into effect in December. But Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 13 that the measure doesn’t do enough to shield employers from the rising payroll costs expected to come with the rule.
“I’m a little bit concerned about this bill because it enshrines the rule,” Kline told Bloomberg BNA. “I want the rule gone altogether.”
The overtime rule is expected to make some 4 million workers newly eligible for time-and-a-half pay for all hours worked beyond 40 each week. H.R. 5813, sponsored by Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), would phase the rule in over three years and eliminate automatic increases to the salary threshold under which workers are eligible for overtime pay.
Walberg, who is chairman of the Subcommittee in Workforce Protections, said he doesn’t expect either the subcommittee or the full committee to take up the measure before the end of the year. “It accepts the policy and just delays it a bit, instead of saying why does a one-size-fits-all plan work for overtime,” Walberg said of the bill.
Meanwhile, two other Republicans—Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (Neb.) and Thomas Emmer (Minn.)—signed on as co-sponsors of the bill Sept. 12. They join business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, the American Hotel and Lodging Association and the National Retail Federation, that have already thrown their weight behind the legislation.
At least some of those organizations are also expected to sue the Labor Department to try to pump the brakes on the new overtime requirements. Although they would like to see the rule stopped completely, they’re taking the position that anything to water down or delay the new requirements is better than nothing.
The Partnership to Protect Workplace Opportunity represents nearly 100 business groups that are fighting the overtime rule. “While an increase in the salary threshold is due, the DOL’s drastic increase of more than 100 percent is too much, too fast, and will have a severe impact on virtually all industries, sectors, and geographic areas of the country,” the PPWO said in an August letter in support of the Schrader bill.
The salary threshold under the new rule is $47,476.
President Barack Obama’s administration and other rule supporters have said expanding overtime pay will help fight wage stagnation by boosting workers’ paychecks. “At some point, we have to decide whether the 40-hour work week is meaningful, because so few people right now are entitled to overtime,” Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 13.
Opponents of the rule argue, however, that businesses and other employers will be forced to trim jobs to meet increased costs.
Kline and Walberg’s comments came as the National Federation of Independent Business asked the DOL to push back the rule’s implementation until June 2017. Kline acknowledged that, with only a few legislative weeks left before the November elections, the clock is ticking.
“I’m looking for opportunities to unburden American workplaces,” Kline said. “But, as you know, we’re running out of time.”
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