House Leaders Pull Comp Time Bill

June 6, 2003 ( - Republican leaders of the US House of Representatives this week abruptly withdrew from the schedule a GOP bill allowing employers to offer hourly workers compensatory time instead of overtime pay.

>According to published reports, House GOP leaders pulled the bill when their tallies showed it was heading to defeat in the face of loud and forceful opposition from labor unions.Under the bill, employers could let employees choose between getting overtime pay or compensatory time off, both calculated at a time-and-a-half rate. Employers would be able to bar workers from taking days off that would, in their judgment, unduly disrupt business.

With business lobbyists and the White House behind it, the bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that ensures that hourly, private-sector workers receive time-and-a-half pay for overtime, accrued in the week it is worked. The bill’s defenders said it would give workers flexibility to spend more time with their families while critics said it would have put heavy pressure on low-income workers to forgo overtime pay to please employers, though employer coercion was specifically barred in the legislation.

Rounding Up Democrats

>According to the news reports, advocates of the bill were unable to round up enough pro-business Democrats to counter opposition from a sizable pro-labor bloc among the 228 House Republicans, said a spokeswoman for House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Missouri). “We never pass labor bills without Democrat votes,” said spokeswoman Burson Taylor. “And we weren’t going to have them this time for whatever reason. The bill got postponed. We’ll try to bring it up again.”

Twice in recent years, the Republican-led House has approved similar comp-time legislation. In 1996 and 1997, versions passed with backing from more than a dozen crossover Democrats. Those efforts died in the Senate and faced veto threats from President Clinton.

This time, sources said, only a handful of the 205 House Democrats were for the bill, a faction led by Representative Charles Stenholm of Texas. Another breakaway Democrat was Representative Calvin Dooley of Hanford, said Diego Arambula, a Dooley spokesman. The centrist Dooley has also backed the Bush administration on major trade bills, over labor objections.

Republican sponsors lashed out at their foes.   “Only in Washington could lobbyists and politicians continue to get away with denying parents the freedom to choose to spend more time with their children,” said Representative Judy Biggert (R-Illinois), author of The Family Time Flexibility Act, in a prepared statement. “I can assure you that the fight to change this outdated requirement on behalf of America’s working moms and dads is not over. I have no doubt that truth will win out.”