Who's in Charge? Congress or OSHA

Find out why supporters of the Congressional Review Act, which gives Congress the authority to kill OSHA's ergonomics rule, face an uphill battle.

There are two other reasons why supporters of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) face an uphill battle in Congress.

The CRA gives Congress the authority to kill the ergonomics standard this spring, well before the rule''s October compliance date.

Support for the ergonomics rider last year was a relatively easy vote because lawmakers knew President Clinton would never go along with it anyway. The stakes are much higher now that a Republican president is in the White House.

In addition, business-friendly Republicans have even slimmer majorities in Congress this year than they did last year, when they just eked out a victory on the ergonomics rider, with the help of a handful of Democrats.

"It will be a hot-button issue for our membership," said a labor lobbyist deeply involved in the debate. "We don''t have to educate our people on this one -- very few workers do not know someone with an ergonomics injury."

Prospects for success look better in the Senate. Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., is the only lawmaker so far to state publicly his support for this move, and one Washington insider said he is assuming the measure will reach the Senate floor.

At a Feb. 20 Washington, D.C., press briefing National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Vice President Pat Cleary pulled out an argument he hopes will be effective in the halls of Congress, where "procedure" -- or the preservation of power -- often trumps other considerations.

"Congress clearly spoke to OSHA last year and said, "Do not issue this regulation. They issued it anyway."

In the weeks ahead, Cleary said he and his allies will be asking lawmakers, "Well, Congress, who really is in charge? You or OSHA?"

by James Nash

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