Magazine article The American Prospect

How a Bill Becomes a Law (Revised)

Magazine article The American Prospect

How a Bill Becomes a Law (Revised)

Article excerpt

FORGET WHAT YOU learned in Government 101 (or math class for that matter), because in Congress these days, a negative plus a negative equals a positive. And even though R's control everything, a House "yea" plus a Senate "yea" can still equal a firm "no" when the White House horns in. A quick lesson:

Our story begins this past spring, when the Labor Department announced a modest change in the rules affecting overtime pay. These new rules, which could take effect as early as 2004 and didn't require congressional action, prevent white-collar workers earning more than $65,000 a year from collecting overtime pay while simultaneously raising the salary bar--from $8,060 to $22,100--under which employers must pay time and a half. The latter provision, which the administration says would make 1.3 million workers eligible for overtime, sounds good, but it functions even better as a diversion from the pay cut that an estimated 8 million workers would suffer if their overtime were offed.

Even GOP legislators felt queasy about eliminating overtime. In September, the Senate passed an amendment to the Labor-Housing and Human Services appropriations bill that blocked the new rules, and the House followed suit with a similar provision in October as the bill headed to conference, presumably to iron out the differences between the two chambers. …

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