Monday, February 06, 2006

Welcome to Washington

On a lighter note, I see MSHA acting assistant secretary David Dye and coal mine safety and health administrator Ray McKinney have achieved the 15 minutes of fame that comes to so many in Washington by making Al Kamen's In the Loop.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.)apparently hasn't dropped his indignation over Dye's early walkout on a special appropriations subcommittee meeting January 23 to discuss the Sago disaster.

"Were these men instructed by anybody in your department to leave?" Specter asked [in a letter to Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao].

Senator, since you raise the question, I also heard from more than one MSHA source that Dye and McKinney left the hearing under orders from above.

I also found, via the Internet, that Secretary Chao herself reportedly walked away in the middle of a January 2004 Specter hearing on the Labor Department's then-prospective revisions to overtime rules.

The Washington Post reported the overtime hearing story, which -- *paranoia alert* -- seems to be gone from the newspaper's website since I first located it.

But, the story I remember also was copied, without attribution,(tut tut tut) on various organizational websites:

Labor Secretary refuses to delay new overtime provisions
Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, appearing before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee, refused a request by Republican chairman Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania to delay the implementation of the Bush administration’s plan to change overtime provisions.

Jared Bernstein, economist of the Economic Policy Institute, testified before the subcommittee that 8 million workers could lose overtime should the changes be implemented, dwarfing the figure peddled by the Labor Department, which estimates a mere 644,000 workers would be affected.

“Enough time has been spent on delays and studies of all sorts,” Chao said, in reference to Specter’s request that her department delay the new implementation, presently scheduled for March 31, until September. Specter also asked Chao if she would remain at the hearings while following testimony debated how many workers would be adversely affected by the new measure. Chao left immediately following her testimony.

and footnoted in the Washington Times as well:

Washington Times: Bush gives Specter smackdown on overtime

Article

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

WASHINGTON-- U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao has denied a public request from Pennsylvania's senior senator to delay loosening the nation's overtime rules.

Chao, testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee's labor subcommittee, refused a request by the panel's chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., to delay until September a business-backed plan to overhaul overtime rules.

"Enough time has been spent on delays and studies of all sorts," Chao told Specter at the Tuesday hearing, adding the department intends to put the new regulations into effect by March 31.

Chao said employers are spending $2 billion a year on "needless litigation" by workers seeking overtime pay. The lawsuits diverted money from "job creation and better pay and benefits," she said.

Specter, facing a re-election fight against conservative Rep. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., scheduled the hearing so the topic could get a "full airing."

Besides asking Chao for the delay, Specter also asked her to remain in the hearing room for subsequent discussions. She refused, leaving after her scheduled testimony, the Washington Post reported

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