Republicans Prepping Attacks on Overtime Rule

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By Chris Opfer

May 18 — Republicans are already prepping attacks on the Labor Department's new overtime rule, with lawmakers working on a disapproval resolution and considering a government funding rider to stall or stop the regulation.

Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) intend “in the coming days” to introduce a resolution to block the overtime rule (RIN 1235-AA11), Alexander said in a statement released hours after the DOL unveiled the rule May 18.

Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told reporters the same day that Republicans have already discussed a rider that would bar the department from using appropriated funds to implement the new rule.

The rule is expected to make some 4.2 million workers newly eligible for overtime by more than doubling the threshold salary under which workers are entitled to time-and-a-half pay (see related story). Supporters say it will help combat wage stagnation by making sure that workers are paid fairly.

Republicans say the rule will force businesses to shed jobs in order to meet rising payroll costs. They also argue that it will lead to the elimination of lower-level management positions previously exempt from overtime pay requirements.

Name of the Game for Opponents: Delay

The Congressional Review Act gives lawmakers the power to block a regulation from taking effect by passing a disapproval resolution in both chambers. The power has been used relatively sparingly in the two decades since it was enacted because those resolutions are subject to presidential veto.

Republicans will likely use the CRA to try to slow down the overtime rule this time around. The hope is that they can push it back far enough that it doesn't take effect—or can be quickly undone by whoever replaces President Barack Obama in the White House early next year.

The law automatically delays “major rules”—based on economic impact—for 60 days, and extends the timeout period another 30 legislative days in the event that the president vetoes a disapproval resolution. In the event a rule is submitted with fewer than 60 legislative days remaining in Congress, it's treated as if it were published 15 days after both chambers convene for the next annual session.

Resolution Unlikely to Survive Senate, Obama

The disapproval resolution faces an uphill climb in the Senate, where it would need at least some Democrat support to pass. It's also nearly certain to be vetoed by President Barack Obama, who in 2014 directed the Labor Department to look for ways to expand overtime eligibility (49 DLR AA-1, 3/13/14).

Cole chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. He told Bloomberg BNA in March that the overtime rule and a separate DOL regulation on conflicts of interest for brokers handling retirement savings would likely be “prime targets” for policy riders in the appropriations process (50 DLR A-9, 3/15/16).

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) told Bloomberg BNA May 18 that Republicans may eventually have to decide which labor policies they want to attack in the government funding process.

“I think it is time for us to sit down and say ‘alright, what are our priorities here,'” Byrne said. “We're going to start getting into the appropriations process and now we have all of these decisions to make.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in Washington at copfer@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com