The House of Representatives dealt the Bush administration a stinging rebuke Oct. 2 by approving a measure that could lead to the reversal of the president’s move to strip overtime pay protections from as many as eight million workers. President Bush will now have to decide whether to withdraw the parts of his proposal that would take away overtime protection or to defy the votes of both houses of Congress.

The 221-203 vote was the second congressional setback in little more than three weeks for Bush’s plan to gut Fair Labor Standards Act protections for workers’ overtime pay. The Senate voted Sept. 10 on the fiscal year 2004 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill to which a provision had been added barring the U.S. Department of Labor from implementing the attack on working families’ paychecks. The House passed its version of the bill in July, but did not include the prohibition.

The Oct. 2 House vote, on what is termed a “motion to instruct,” called on House members of the conference committee merging the Senate and House versions of HR 2660 to go along with the provision in the Senate bill that bans the overtime-takeaway scheme.

“Both houses of Congress have now spoken – and they have directed President Bush not to take away overtime pay from working families,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. “America’s workers and their families hope the president is listening.”

If the Senate ban on the overtime attack does prevail, the Bush administration has vowed to veto the entire appropriations bill. But Bush faces intense political pressure not to follow through on his veto threat.

A recent survey shows how far out of step with the public Bush’s efforts to gut overtime pay are. Three in four Americans oppose the proposal to eliminate the right of several million employees to overtime pay. Opposition is overwhelming regardless of political affiliation, race, income or geographic region, according to a national survey conducted by the independent polling firm Peter D. Hart Research Associates. The survey, commissioned by the AFL-CIO, was conducted among 862 adults from Aug. 26-31. By 17 to 1, the public believes federal laws governing overtime should be changed to cover more employees (52 percent) rather than fewer employees (3 percent). Thirty-eight percent support retaining current levels of coverage.