http://news. yahoo.com/ s/nm/20060729/ bs_nm/congress_ wage_taxes_ dc
House vote raises minimum wage
By Richard Cowan and Donna
Smith 1 hour, 39 minutes
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives
voted on Saturday to give some of the lowest-paid
American workers their first raise in nearly a decade,
while also handing a big tax cut to some of the
The House in the early hours voted 230-180 to raise
the $5.15-per-hour minimum wage in three 70-cent steps
until it reaches $7.25 in mid-2009.
During a bitter floor debate, Rep. Phil English, a
Pennsylvania Republican, said most Democrats'
opposition to the bill showed "they've always liked
the politics of the minimum wage and cared little for
the policy of the minimum wage."
But Democrats shot back that Republicans had staged an
election-year stunt to get a minimum wage vote knowing
the Senate won't go along because of opposition there
to the estate tax cut. And some senators are opposed
to any minimum wage hike.
Before this election year, Rep. George
bio, voting record), a California Democrat said, "You
never raised a finger to help these individuals"
getting paid the minimum wage.
Coming shortly before the House was to start a
five-week summer break that will give members time to
campaign for re-election, the legislation also would
cut estate taxes, derided by Republicans as a "death
tax," and extend several other popular tax cuts. Its
estimated cost was about $310 billion over 10 years.
The package is likely to be debated next week in the
Senate, where its fate was unclear. Efforts to roll
back estate taxes failed in the Senate in June. Such a
cut is a high priority for Republican leaders ahead of
the November congressional elections when Democrats
hope to make big gains.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada noted
the Senate has "rejected fiscally irresponsible estate
tax giveaways before and will reject
The estate tax cut is estimated to help less than 1
percent of American families at a time of skyrocketing
"Workers at the lowest end of the scale are being held
hostage to 7,500 families," said Rep. Steny Hoyer
(news, bio, voting record) of Maryland, the
second-ranking Democrat in the House, who wanted a
minimum wage increase bill without the estate tax cut.
Those 7,500 families are the number of wealthy
families that would benefit from the estate tax cut.
By contrast, some seven million workers would benefit
from the increase in the minimum wage.
Republicans argue cutting estate taxes helps small
businesses and farmers.
The bill also would renew for two years expired tax
breaks for education, research, college tuition and
other popular items.
For several years, Republicans controlling Congress
have blocked an increase in the minimum wage, claiming
backfire by causing employers to hire fewer
But Democrats stepped up pressure this year for the
increase, arguing high gasoline and heating prices
were making it harder for the working poor to survive
while working at wages frozen since 1997.
They were joined by dozens of moderate Republicans in
the House who, facing tough re-elections in November,
challenged their leaders and demanded a minimum wage
vote before breaking for the summer.
Recent polls have shown broad discontent with the
Republican-led House and Senate. Democrats, hoping to
win control of Congress, have tried to portray an
out-of-touch Republican Party that has agreed to
nearly $35,000 in pay raises for members of Congress
over the past decade while refusing to increase the
pay for low-wage jobs.
White House spokesman Tony Snow, asked about
President George W. Bush's position on the minimum
wage, told reporters on
Friday, "We are for minimum
wage increases if they do not jeopardize the ability
of small businesses to create jobs."