Friday, November 21, 2003

You Go Arlen! Special Bipartisanship Issue

Not for the first time, the labor movement's hero in the U.S. Senate seems to be Pennsylvania Republican Republican Arlen Specter.

Specter, chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees labor, health and education spending, is the chief opponent of Bush's effort to change overtime rules, stripping over 8 million workers of the overtime they currently earn.

The overtime rules are the only major item keeping the labor, health and education appropriations (money) bill from being passed. Because the Congress is so over its schedule for passing appropriations bills, the Labor/HHS bill has been lumped together with a number of other appropriations bills to form one big "omnibus" bill. Bush has threatened to veto the entire bill over the overtime issue.
By directly challenging Bush on the overtime issue, Specter is burnishing his credentials with Pennsylvania's influential labor movement. But bucking the White House on such a politically potent issue will probably will hurt him in the primary race, in which he faces a challenge from conservative Rep. Pat Toomey (R) and business interests, according to some political experts.

Specter said in an interview yesterday: "I don't know where the cost-benefit ratio lies on the political scale, so I'm just doing what I always do" in defending labor. "It cuts both ways, and you can't figure out which way is sharper."
In the past, Specter has been the chief Republican defender of OSHA's budget, keeping the Bush administration from making major cuts, year after year.

On the other hand, Specter did take a dive on the ergonomics standard, a fatal decision as his support could possibly have given cover for other moderate Republicans (and a few wayward) Democrats to have supported the standard.

In another man-bites-dog story, conservative New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg is opposing the Republican energy bill because it contains too much pork. I have absolutely nothing else nice to say about Gregg, who chairs the Senate OSHA sub-committee.

Oh, yeah. If you live in Pennsylvania, call Specter and encourage him to stand strong on the overtime rules.