|ONLINE VERSION||APRIL 2001|
|Congress OK's Bush's Assault on Working Families|
|Moving with unusual speed, the U.S. House
of Representatives voted narrowly on the evening of March 7 to repeal
new workplace safety regulations, just a day after the Senate voted to
rescind the same rules. The next day, March 8, the House approved the
heart of Bush's tax cut plan, an across-the-board reduction in income
tax rates that was the foundation of his election campaign.
The House backed the ergonomics rules repeal bill 223 to 206, with 16 Democrats voting to support the repeal. At the same time, 13 Republicans voted to keep the regulations.
Like the 56 to 44 Senate vote on March 6 to scrap the ergonomics rules, the House vote was a major victory for business and a huge setback for labor, which had lobbied for 10 years for strong regulations to reduce ergonomic injuries.
"To anybody who cares about the issues facing working men and women, it should be alarming that a worker health and safety rule was overturned by Congress for the first time in OSHA's 30- year history," said AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney. "And to anybody who cares about our democracy, it should be equally alarming that this deed was done with only a few hours of debate in each chamber over just two days — and over the voices of workers representing millions who have suffered from injuries on the job."
"A Republican leadership juggernaut in the House resorted to arm-twisting and steamroller tactics to assure a majority to crush the ergonomics standard and deliver for their big business backers. In doing so, they wiped out a 10-year effort to establish protections for workers who suffer from crippling and disabling injuries. Surely this legislative efficiency could have been put to better purpose," Sweeney said.
The House Democratic leader, Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, said, "I have not in my entire time in the Congress seen such an awful example of rushing to the floor just a few months after an election and trying to get through special interest legislation."
And "this rapid one-two punch represented the first joint legislative attack on the legacy of President Clinton," reported the New York Times, "who issued the regulations in what he called an effort to combat the wave of injuries resulting from repetitive motions on the job."
The White House supported the repeal and President Bush was expected to sign the legislation soon.
"The voices of injured workers were not heard in the halls of Congress," Sweeney said. "They were drowned out by the predatory demands of corporate greed. These demands have also dominated decision-making in the White House. Not in recent memory have big business interests hostile to the concerns of working families held such sway with our President and the U.S. Congress."
Just one day later, on March 8, without even the appearance of deliberation, the Republican majority in the House voted to rubber-stamp the centerpiece and most costly component of Bush's tax cut plan, "undermining the nation's capacity to meet urgent needs and putting at risk the economic futures of America's working families," said Sweeney.
In what was called the first big test of Bush's standing in Congress by the Times, the House approved the heart of Bush's tax cut plan, an across-the-board reduction in income tax rates by a vote of 230 to 198. No Republicans voted against the bill and 10 Democrats broke ranks and voted for it.
Sweeney said that "by voting for this massive tax cut, the members of the House have rejected repairing our children's schools — even though a third of our school buildings are in desperate disrepair. They have voted against helping more families get health insurance — even though nearly 43 million Americans, including 10 million children, lack insurance. And they have foreclosed the possibility of a real prescription drug benefit and put Medicare and Social Security in jeopardy."
"This vote only reinforces that the Bush Administration and the Republican majority in Congress are beholden to the corporate interests and the wealthy who bankrolled their election campaigns. The Bush tax plan shifts billions of dollars generated by working families to the super-rich — the richest one percent would receive an average of $46,000, while the bottom 20 percent would receive $42."
"Coming at the beginning of the 107th Congress" these votes "clearly define the battleground for the struggles between working families and those who oppose us over the next two years," said Sweeney. "We will redouble our efforts to speak for working men and women in those struggles — to win advances and defeat rollbacks in gains previously won."
"And we will be relentless in shining a spotlight on the actions of this Congress: no member who votes to abandon the people who elected him or her should expect the votes of working families in upcoming elections."