September 10, 2004 - Volume I: Edition VI
After an unusually busy August, Congress is back in session and considering important legislation. Here’s an update about some of the main issues I have been working on recently:
Urgent Update on Overtime Pay Fight
The U.S. House of Representatives just passed an important amendment that would stop President Bush's new policy that could take away the right to overtime pay for over 6 million workers. I voted for the amendment, which passed by 223-193. One hundred percent of House Democrats voted for the amendment, sponsored by Reps. David Obey (D-WI) and George Miller (D-CA), and nearly 90 percent of Republican members voted against it. It was a rare victory for Middle Class families; the White House has even threatened to veto the final bill if the amendment stays in!
On August 23rd, a new Bush administration policy governing overtime pay took effect that will hand millions of American workers a pay cut. Along with my colleagues in the House, I have been working hard to stop this new rule. This amendment is one of our last chances to stop the Administration from succeeding in cutting the pay of workers who work more than forty hours per week and are entitled to overtime pay. The matter will now go to the Senate.
For years it has been pretty clear who was eligible for overtime pay and who wasn't. And if you were eligible, you got paid time and a half for the extra hours. But now the rules have changed, and as many as six million people could have their eligibility changed -- and their overtime pay cut. These workers have the same jobs as before, work the same hours, or more, but would not receive any overtime compensation. It is one of the worst labor policies this Administration has ushered through -- and there have been many!
Workers who stand to lose their overtime pay because of the new rules include foremen, assistant managers, registered nurses, workers who perform relatively small amounts of supervisory or administrative work, salespeople who perform some amount of work outside the office, chefs, nursery school teachers, workers in the financial services industry, insurance claim adjusters, journalists, funeral directors and embalmers, law enforcement officers, athletic trainers, and others from all different parts of the workforce. For more information about the new policy, visit: http://edworkforce.house.gov/democrats/releases/rel71404.html
Some low-income workers will actually become eligible for overtime pay under the new rule, and that is a good thing. The Democratic amendment does not affect those workers. But no one should lose overtime pay just because of a phony change in one's job description. Now that our amendment has passed, you can be sure that the Speaker of the House, Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), and the Majority Leader, Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX), will do everything they can to stop the amendment from becoming law. They've done it before. But I will do everything in my power, working with my colleagues in the Senate and the House, to make sure our amendment makes it to the President's desk.
Feel free to let me know your views about this issue, and, if you care to, send a note to our senators to let them how you feel. You are welcome to share this message with your friends, colleagues and family in other communities and in other states about this important vote and the importance of making sure the Bush administration doesn't get away with cutting overtime pay for six million American workers
The Record on Aid to New York
The challenges for our city and state have increased exponentially over the past few years. 9/11 made it clear that our city is terror target number one – a distinction that has saddled us with enormous recovery and security needs. Additionally, on other vital issues that include jobs and the economy, health care and education, it is apparent that we can do better.
Last week, as a number of my congressional colleagues visited our great city and filled Madison Square Garden, I pointed out that New York is a city still in need. Our state’s Democratic delegation laid out the reality about our city and state by releasing a report on New York during this administration.
From homeland funding that disproportionately sends money to Wyoming over New York to an economy that has lost 227,300 New York jobs, from $153.2 million in federal cuts for New York’s police and law enforcement to proposing a $200 million cut in Medicaid funding for New York, the report highlights significant areas in which we can do much better.
Helping All the 9/11 Victims
An arbitrary deadline set in the days following the 9/11 attacks should not shut out those who were physically harmed from getting the federal aid they need. One of Congress’s actions following 9/11 was to establish the Victim Compensation Fund to get those affected the help they need, but the cutoff date was set as December 22, 2003. Unfortunately, many rescue and recovery workers have experienced illnesses that developed in full after the cutoff date. In other cases, they were never informed of their eligibility for the fund in the first place.
For that reason, I have unveiled legislation to extend the application deadline by three years and to widen the scope of those eligible to include workers who may have arrived at Ground Zero later than others
There are many unresolved and unknown health issues impacting the men and women who gave of themselves to begin our city’s recovery process, and all of them deserve the help of our government – whether they made the original deadline or not.
Terrorist Weapons Available in the U.S.?
As scary as the thought is, a weapon that terrorists easily could use to cause mass devastation is available, loosely regulated and as easy to purchase as a regular rifle here in our homeland. The weapon in question is the 50-caliber sniper rifle – a gun made to take down aircraft that also has the potential to cause enormous destruction at chemical and refinery plants.
I have urged a crackdown on this weapon that threatens us from within.
We are constantly worried about terrorists smuggling weapons of mass destruction past our borders – and rightly so – but we should be just as concerned about the 50-caliber sniper rifle and other weapons that are widely available here at home and could cause as much damage. I have co-sponsored HR 4292, a legislative initiative to ban 50-caliber sniper rifles and make our homeland safer. This is an issue that deserves our utmost attention and vigilance.