NPR has a decent summary of all the goings-on, but here is the short version:

  1. The House passed the Working Families Flexibilities Act of 2013, which allows employers to reimburse hourly employees who work overtime with up to 160 hours of compensation time instead of time-and-a-half pay. The latter is required under current law.
  2. The Senate is never going to pass this legislation, and the White House is all but set to veto it.
  3. The House passed the law as part of a new effort by the GOP to be family friendly.
  4. The White House cited, among concerns, the lack of “protections if the employer were to shut down or declare bankruptcy before employees’ free time could be used.”

In other words, the GOP’s “family friendly” effort is running into a brick wall. As it should. While the legislation isn’t necessarily problematic – employees and employers should have flexibility on agreements related to reimbursement for work – the GOP is doing it for all the wrong reasons.

First, the idea of passing legislation for purposes of party PR is atrocious. It’s a longstanding habit in Congress, but it’s still a highly unethical use of public dollars.

Second, the legislation won’t have much impact on the struggling economy. If the GOP really wants to help families, it could put forth a tax reform plan ASAP. And it could cut spending.

Third, if the GOP really wants to overturn the federal government’s overstepping of its bounds in this situation – a mandate of time-and-a-half pay for overtime work should be decided on between employer and employee, not politicians and bureaucrats – it should actually do so. Eliminate the requirement for overtime pay outright. Skirting the edges with a passive-aggressive, transparently shallow piece of legislation is not what political leaders are supposed to do.