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Bush Set to Repeal Clinton's Ergonomics Rule

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Democrats defended the original OSHA estimates.

"It isn't the Department of Labor talking about $4 billion worth of expenditures, it's about the Department of Labor talking about $4 billion worth of savings," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, (D-Mass.), a leading defender of organized labor.

Kennedy said that repealing the rule would threaten the rights of working Americans.

"Instead of helping hard-working Americans, this resolution is a big thank-you to big business for all their support. It's politics at its worst. And it leaves average American workers defenseless against today's workplace injuries," Kennedy said. "Let America's workers be on guard. Your rights and your dignity and your hard work are no longer respected."

Democrats also said that the resolution essentially would prevent OSHA from ever adopting an ergonomics rule because the Department of Labor would now have to seek the approval of Congress to pass any such rule.

The repeal resolution was introduced in the Senate using a little known and never-used congressional power called the Congressional Review Act. Under that act, Congress is empowered to review and reject by vote any administration rule that would cost more than $100 million to implement.

But in a letter to Jeffords, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao assured him that she would continue to address this problem.

"Let me assure you that in the event a Joint Resolution of Disapproval becomes law, I intend to pursue a comprehensive approach to ergonomics, which may include new rule making," she wrote. "Repetitive stress injuries in the workplace are an important problem."

Business leaders also tell WebMD that they would support a watered-down version of OSHA's current ergonomics rule.

"No business would purposely harm their employees," Peter Eide, director of labor law policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, tells WebMD.

Eide says that businesses would like to see Chao pursue a new rule as long as she based it in part upon a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, which called for additional studies.

"The fact that they [OSHA] spent 10 years doing it doesn't mean that it's a good rule," Edie says.

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