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Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2005

Location: Washington, DC


The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 754 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the further consideration of the bill, H.R. 5006.


Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

(Mr. ANDREWS asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the amendment by my friend, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Obey). Seventy-six years ago, the Congress passed and the President signed a law which says that if you work more than 40 hours a week, that you get time and a half for that additional time. With some carefully reasoned and well-thought-out exceptions since then, it has been the law for every American worker under every circumstance.

We have before us today the question of whether we should continue that very important principle. We should, and Members on both sides should vote in favor of the Obey amendment.

As the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Obey) said a few minutes ago, there are officially 8 million Americans out of work as we meet this afternoon. Three million of those Americans have been out of work so long they have exhausted their unemployment benefits. The price of health care has increased by 50 percent in the last 3 ½ years. This administration will be the first administration since that of Herbert Hoover that has lost more jobs than it has created.

Mr. Chairman, 2.45 million workers in manufacturing plants around the country have seen their jobs go overseas or south of the border, probably lost forever. The price of heating your home, driving your car, and educating your children rises, and the squeeze on the middle class intensifies.

So what issue does this Congress and this administration confront? The issue we confront is taking income away from 6 million people. These are not 6 million people who are at the high end of the American labor force.

In the debate on these regulations, we have heard this is about highly skilled, highly compensated people. Not the case. The Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan objective arm of this institution, did an analysis of the people who will be affected by these overtime regulations. Nearly 70 percent of the workers who will be affected by these regulations make less than $1,000 a week. Nearly 70 percent of the people affected by these rules are making less than $50,000 a year. This is the middle class we are talking about. It is the working middle class. It is nursery school teachers, short-order cooks, people who work in the shoe department of a retail store. Their biggest problem, with all due respect, is not that they are getting too much income; it is that they are not getting enough, and they are not getting enough to pay the bills that their family needs to pay.

These overtime rules will adversely affect 6 million American workers. If there are going to be changes to the overtime rules, they should be debated here. They should be voted on by the people's representatives, not by the appointed people who work in the Department of Labor.

The Obey amendment will suspend these rules. It will protect the overtime rights of more than 6 million American workers. It will leave in place the existing overtime rules as it affects those workers, and it is the right thing to do.

Mr. Chairman, with all due respect to the authors of this overtime policy change, overtime is not a gift from America's employers; overtime is the right of America's workers. In order to protect that right and to do what is right, I would urge my friends, both Republican and Democrat, to vote "yes" on the Obey amendment.


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