The passage of an appropriations bill for fiscal 2004 means the Labor Department can go forward with changes that the American Nurses Association contends could make many nurses ineligible for overtime pay. Unlike earlier versions, the spending bill that passed the Senate 65-28 today does not block the Bush administration from making the changes, which include an increase in the minimum salary threshold for required overtime and new definitions of white-collar workers. The House passed the appropriations bill in December, but the Senate delayed its vote until Congress reconvened this week. Several Democrats tried unsuccessfully to further delay approval of the $328 billion spending bill, which sets limits for the federal government's discretionary spending. The bill includes $62.1 billion in discretionary spending for HHS, bringing the agency's total fiscal 2004 budget to $360.4 billion including mandatory spending for programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. -- by Tony Fong
Budget bill passes with no ban on overtime changes
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