GOP leaders reject White House ergonomics proposal

House and Senate GOP leaders on Monday rejected a Clinton administration proposal to delay the date the Occupational Safety and Health Administration could implement a new rule providing ergonomics protections for workers, according to congressional sources.

Disagreement over the ergonomics rule was a primary reason the Republican leadership rejected a deal reached very early Monday morning between appropriators and the administration on the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriations bill.

The compromise would have kept the controversial, long-delayed rules from going into effect until June, but would have permitted them to be published as final rules before the new administration takes office in January, sources said.

Since the deal fell through, the original amendment blocking the publication of the workplace ergonomics rule appears to be still in the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, H.R. 4577, despite indications by backers last week that they "would not hold up government" over it. The existing amendment would prevent OSHA from publishing or implementing any type of ergonomic protection for workers.

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said the Labor-HHS-Education spending package "needs some work," while House Majority Leader Richard Armey, R-Texas, called it "a bad offer;" both took particular exception to the deal on the administration's controversial workplace ergonomics rule.

While House Appropriations Committee ranking member David Obey, D-Wis., called the ergonomics deal a "basic welching on an agreement" appropriators made last year to stop delaying the rule, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., on Monday countered that the administration's proposal amounted to the status quo. "The status quo isn't satisfactory," he said. GOP leaders, rather than appropriators, now have the responsibility for hammering out final ergonomics language.

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