Republicans Could Compromise on Overtime Rule

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By Tyrone Richardson

Nov. 15 — House Republicans, running low on time to scuttle the rule expanding worker access to overtime pay, may be willing to agree on a compromise.

The new rule mandates that employees earning below $47,476 per year are eligible for overtime pay. That figure is up from the current threshold of $23,660. Business advocates and congressional Republicans have been trying a string of legislative and legal moves to stop or slow the new overtime pay requirements. Thus far they have not slowed the rule, which starts Dec. 1.

Many businesses are already complying with the rule’s requirement, including raising salaries to keep some workers exempt from overtime pay requirements and switching others to hourly rates to better track their time. That could make it tricky for a new administration to try to scrap the rule come January.

Democrats have touted the rule as a way to increase pay for middle-class workers, while many Republicans and business advocates have said the new threshold would cause job losses and add financial pressure on business owners.

$47,000 Threshold is ‘Not the number.’

Some House Republicans told Bloomberg BNA that they plan to advance measures to lessen the impact of the rule. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), chairman of an Education and the Workforce subcommittee, said the current threshold is “too low, but doubling that is way too much.”

“It’s going to be up, and we said that all along, but $47,000 is not the number,” Roe told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 14.

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) said there is hope the Obama administration will change the rule the congressman described as “disastrous for the economy, and especially for the small businesses.”

Chabot said action will be taken if the administration does not come to understand the rule’s impacts, especially when they have “the numbers” to advance legislation in the new Congress.

“Right now, President Obama is still the president and he apparently likes this overtime rule, or his Labor Department does,” he said. “I think they’re making a big mistake and I hope they are willing to work with a lot business people and members on both sides of the aisle that think this is a bad idea.”

Similar comments were made by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 15 that he is working with colleagues to “see if this can be delayed, but there is no final consensus at this time.”

Although Republicans retained control of both the House and Senate, they didn’t get the 60 seats needed for a filibuster-proof majority in the latter chamber. That means they’ll need at least a few Democrats to cross the aisle if they want to get anything accomplished.

Overtime Shifted by Executive Order?

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) told Bloomberg BNA that House members are looking at ways to “lessen” the overtime rule’s impact on employers, hinting there could be actions such as an executive order once President-elect Donald Trump (R) assumes office.

“We have to keep pushing on this and I think we have a new president who may be willing to do something with executive order,” he said.

Trump’s opposition to the overtime rule has not been completely defined. He’s previously suggested he’d like to see some sort of carve out or protection for small businesses.

Officials at Trump’s transition team did not immediately respond to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment Nov. 15.

There’s also some legal actions to halt the rule. A federal judge in Texas will hear oral arguments Nov. 16 on whether to issue a preliminary injunction halting the rule before its effective date.

Democrats Unwilling to Change?

Congressional Democrats have said they would not support any measures that would weaken the rule.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 15 that it will be “very difficult” for Republicans to halt the rule. Republicans will not be able to slow the rule with the Congressional Review Act challenge because of time limits imposed under the CRA, he said.

“It would be terrible for Republicans and Trump to take any action against the overtime rule,” he said, adding that it would have a “negative affect on middle class workers who have been without for far too long.”

—Chris Opfer contributed to this story

To contact the reporter on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at trichardson@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

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