BREAKING: The Senate approved the House version in the wee hours of Friday, March 23, and President Trump signed the measure the next day, averting a government shutdown.
The bill funding the federal government through September still faces a stiff deadline of Friday at midnight ET, but at least the details are now becoming clear: The measure excludes any cost sharing reduction (CSR) funds for Obamacare, and it also puts the kibosh on tip-pooling wage theft by restaurant owners.
Senators Susan Collins (R.-Me.) and Lamar Alexander (R.-Tenn.) had a proposal to restore the CSRs for health insurance companies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but it failed to make it into the sweeping budget measure. The proposal would also have established funds for state reinsurance programs to help offset health care costs for the sickest. (President Trump ended the CSR payments in 2017 but supported the Collins-Alexander effort).
Under a recent proposal by the Department of Labor (DOL) that would allow tip pooling at restaurants, the potential for employer wage theft loomed large, as the language of the proposal would allow them to do as they please with the tips their staff receives, including keeping it for themselves. The budget proposal, however, specifically prevents this:
“An employer may not keep tips received by its employees for any purposes, including allowing managers or supervisors to keep any portion of employees’ tips, regardless of whether or not the employer takes a tip credit.”
Restaurants would still be able to pool tips received by front-of-the-house employers and share them with back-of-the-house staff, provided everyone is making at least the minimum wage honored by that state without the tips.
The bill also incorporates the Save America’s Pastime Act, which exempts pro baseball players from federal labor laws. The measure guarantees that minor leaguers be paid at least the minimum wage for 40 hours a week (regardless of how long they work), but guarantees no overtime. Minor league players now earn a minimum of $1,100 a month; under the bill, that figure rises ever so slightly to $1,160. The bill is also meant to squash lawsuits against Major League Baseball (MLB) over the issues of minimum wage and overtime pay
For the most part, the measure increases funding across the board. Defense spending, generally favored by Republicans, is set to jump $80 billion over previously authorized spending levels, while domestic spending favored by Democrats rises by $63 billion.
Now that the House of Representatives has approved the $1.3 trillion, 2,232-page budget bill, the Senate has until midnight Friday to approve it and avert a federal government shutdown. Since Congress is scheduled for a two-week spring break starting Saturday, the motivation should be there to get things done on time, but given the arcane rules of the Senate, anything can happen.