Fight Over Ergonomics Continues

Republican congressional leaders continue to argue with the Clinton Administration about the $350 billion measure to fund labor, education and health programs because of the proposed workplace ergonomics rule.

In this year''s end-of-session budget and tax battle, Republican congressional leaders say that they are prepared to stay in Washington to negotiate with President Clinton on one of the last big unfinished bills.

That bill is the $350 billion measure to fund labor, education and health programs.

Negotiators said they were making progress on the bill, but GOP leaders said yesterday it remained unacceptable, in part because of the proposed workplace ergonomics rule.

The proposal would allow OSHA to promulgate new rules to reduce repetitive motion injuries and other work-related illnesses.

Even if it is passes before next week''s presidential election, the rules would not go into effect until next year when business groups that oppose the rules hope there would be a Republican president in the White House to rescind them.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said the proposal would still allow the rulemaking process to go forward before the next president takes office.

"It''s the status quo and the status quo is not satisfactory," Hastert told reporters. "We are not going to be pushed out of town with a bad deal."

Although control of the House is up for grabs in this year''s election, Republican leaders said they will stand their ground on outstanding issues as Congress approved another 24-hour extension of federal operations.

The discord over the labor, education and health programs bill could open the door to Congress returning after the election for a lame-duck session.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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