Thursday, July 27, 2006

House to Vote on Minimum Wage - Tomorrow?

National Journal's Congress Daily (subscription required) reports that the House is likely to vote tomorrow on a mimimum wage increase:

House Leaders Could Bring Up Min. Wage Package Friday

Bowing to pressure from GOP moderates and the political realities of an election year, House Republican leaders are now moving toward bringing a minimum wage increase to the floor Friday, two senior Republican members said today. If a Friday vote is unrealistic, House leaders will commit the House to a floor vote shortly after Congress returns in September. "We've got a package that we've put together, it's not exhaustive but it's significant," according to one senior member. The cornerstone of the package would be to attach a minimum wage increase to legislation on association health plans. AHPs are favored by business groups and have passed the House several times. The package also is expected to include a handful of carve-outs for specific industries and potentially other add-ons that seek to lower small business healthcare costs. House Speaker Hastert told reporters Wednesday that a vote was not likely before the break, but an hourlong House Republican Conference meeting earlier today -- where about 30 members spoke -- appears to have prompted leaders to change course. "It's under consideration," was Majority Leader Boehner's only comment. Hastert and Boehner oppose a wage hike, but a significant portion of the Conference has been pressuring leaders to allow a vote.

One GOP source said the legislation is expected to boost the minimum wage to $7.25 over a three-year period, but that figure has not been finalized. Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., said discussions were continuing on the details, but one option was to index the minimum wage rate to inflation, which could lower the proposed $7.25 target. Negotiators also were weighing carve-outs for small businesses, particularly farms and restaurants, to make the wage rate less onerous. The National Restaurant Association has been particularly vocal in its opposition to a wage hike, and to make it more palatable, Republicans were seeking to include a provision extending a "tip credit" to employers in states where it is not allowed. In states that allow the credit, employers -- largely restaurants -- are required to pay tipped employees $2.13 an hour and apply their tipped earnings to make up the balance of the $5.15 an hour minimum wage. Employers can apply the tip credit only to the extent it covers the entire $3.02 gap between wages and tips.

Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Conn., who is a top Democratic target this cycle, supports the wage hike and is advocating the carve-outs. "I've got a lot of restaurants in my district, so I need a carve-out for tips. I've got a lot of farmers in my district so summer-hire carve-outs are important to consider," he said. Rep. James Walsh, R-N.Y., said that coupling the wage hike with legislation to make it easier for small businesses to provide health insurance was the right approach and would help his constituents who do not have coverage. Not all minimum wage advocates believe a July vote is politically necessary. "My own personal view is that the only people paying attention to campaigns right now are candidates and consultants; most people are not focusing on it," said retiring Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y. "My view is that we should put together a good package and do it in the first part of September."
-- by Susan Davis and Peter Cohn

This package will have a tough time passing. Many Republicans oppose a minimum wage increase, so Democratic votes will be needed to pass the measure. Most Democrats will oppose the bill, holding out for a 'stand-alone' minimum wage increase, and seeing a chance to deal Republicans a defeat. The House leadership will press moderate members to support the bill, to help neutralize this as a political issue.

Still, given the challenging prospects in the House and Democratic grandstanding in the Senate, a minimum wage increase is far from certain.

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1 comment:

Lisa M said...

John Sweeney is supposed to be a moderate now? That's funny, good one.

Just because a guy is scared he's going to loose his seat that doesn't change his overwhelming record.

Sweeney is a conservative. He's supported the Christian Coalition 69% of the time.

He's voted pro-choice just 10% of the time.

If Sweeney is a moderate, I guess Dick Cheney is a liberal these days.