WASHINGTON -- In a speech expounding on the rift between rural America and Washington D.C., Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) vowed Thursday to use his funding powers to stop the Obama administration from implementing new child-labor rules pertaining to agricultural work, accusing the "urban" Labor Department of meddling in a "rural" industry it doesn't understand.
"This is one of those situations where I think the Department of Labor is overstepping its boundaries, its knowledge base, and frankly I think you're sitting around watching reruns of "Blazing Saddles" and that's your interpretation of what goes on in the West," Rehberg, who holds the Labor Department's purse strings for the House of Representatives, said as he lectured a labor official during a hearing Thursday. "And it's not anymore."
Last year, the Labor Department proposed new rules governing what kinds of potentially dangerous tasks minors can and cannot perform on farms and in grain facilities. Although child and worker advocates said the new rules were long overdue, the proposals created an uproar among farmers and agricultural trade groups, who argued that the rules could hurt family-farming traditions.
Although the original proposals largely exempted family farms, the Labor Department bowed yesterday to the farming industry, further widening the exemptions it had already put forward. But that didn't stop Rehberg and GOP members of the House agriculture subcommittee from piling on the department Thursday, using the hearing as an opportunity to put forth their rural bona fides