Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Minimum Wage: the Height of Dem Hypocrisy

For years, Democrats scored political points by blaming the Republican Congress for failing to pass a minimum wage increase. Although it received almost no coverage in the press, the GOP Congress did pass such increases - packaged along with tax breaks for business to reduce job losses from the increase. Democrats refused to go along with these proposals, insisting that only a stand-alone minimum wage increase was acceptable. Air America went so far as to call this a 'poison pill.'

Now Harry Reid says he supports this approach!

Republicans, however, are seeking tax and regulatory sweeteners for businesses to ease the impact of a phased wage hike to $7.25 per hour. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has indicated that he will back the business breaks, remarking last week that a filibuster-proof margin for a stand-alone minimum wage increase may be achievable, but, “I’m not sure I want to do that.”

The Senate Finance Committee today will examine options for tax breaks that the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee can successfully pair with the wage hike. But HELP Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and ranking Republican Mike Enzi (Wyo.) are already dissenting from party leaders’ positions on the minimum wage.

Kennedy will push for a Senate wage hike without business tax breaks at an event today with House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.), AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, and freshman Reps. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) and Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.)...

Enzi, meanwhile, spent yesterday’s GOP policy lunch tamping down enthusiasm among Republicans for adding small-business health plan provisions to the minimum-wage hike. Enzi’s small-business health plan bill fell short on the floor last year, and he continues to work carefully on a compromise with Democrats that he hopes to pursue as a stand-alone issue, spokesman Craig Orfield said.

Senate Republicans also endorse other business benefits as add-ons to the wage bill, but support for including small-business health plans is being stoked in the House. There, senior Republicans gathered yesterday to tout Reid’s support for a business-friendly wage bill and promote their alternative – which includes small-business health plans.

“Small business health plans would be my choice,” Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) said in an interview late last week, adding that a wage increase coupled with health insurance incentives would ensure businesses are “able to give their employees a better life.”

So it becomes clear: if Harry Reid has his way, then Democrats will have blocked a GOP-led minimum wage increase for years for political gain, only to pass the same proposal after they assume control of Congress. Unbelieveable.

Update: David Kralik at NAM points me to Pat Cleary's post on the topic. It's worth a read.

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