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Senate Republicans block minimum wage hike

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070124/pl_nm/usa_congress_wages_vote_dc Senate Republicans block minimum wage hike By Thomas Ferraro 2 hours, 51 minutes ago
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 24, 2007
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070124/pl_nm/usa_congress_wages_vote_dc

      Senate Republicans block minimum wage hike

      By Thomas Ferraro 2 hours, 51 minutes ago

      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Republicans on Wednesday
      blocked the Democrats from fulfilling a campaign
      promise to increase the federal minimum wage,
      demanding that the pay hike include tax relief for
      small business.

      On a vote of 54-43, Democrats fell six short of the 60
      needed to end debate and go to passage of a
      House-approved bill, to raise the minimum wage for the
      first time in a decade -- boosting it over two years
      to $7.25 per hour from $5.15.

      Democratic leaders responded by adding $8 billion in
      tax breaks, and the Senate is expected to pass the
      bill next week. The measure adopted by the House
      included no tax breaks. The two chambers must agree on
      a final bill before it can become law.

      "There is no doubt in my mind that we will get
      together quite quickly," said Senate Finance Committee
      Chairman Max Baucus (news, bio, voting record), a
      Montana Democrat.

      But Brendan Daly, an aide to House Speaker Nancy
      Pelosi (news, bio, voting record), a California
      Democrat, said: "We should not delay a minimum wage
      increase another day in order to negotiate a tax
      package."

      President George W. Bush has said he wants tax relief
      in the bill to help small business pay for a minimum
      wage hike.

      "We're trying to make sure we don't put mom-and-pop
      businesses and their employees out of work," said Sen.
      Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican.

      With the gap between rich and poor widening, Democrats
      promised a minimum wage increase as a part of the
      campaign that saw them win control of the Congress
      from Bush's Republicans in last November's elections.

      "Millions of Americans who earn the minimum wage have
      been waiting a decade for a much-deserved raise," said
      Rep. Rahm Emanuel (news, bio, voting record), an
      Illinois Democrat. "Incredibly, Senate Republicans
      would have them wait even longer."

      Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy (news, bio, voting
      record) of Massachusetts had initially opposed adding
      tax breaks to the bill, noting that in the past decade
      corporations and the wealthiest Americans have
      received billions of dollars in tax relief.

      But Kennedy said to win passage, he will back the
      proposed tax breaks. He said they were far less than
      those demanded by Republicans when they repeatedly
      stopped an increase in the minimum wage in recent
      years.

      Republicans have cited studies that say an increase
      would drive people out of work and hurt the economy.

      But Democrats counter that a modest increase would
      cause no significant job loss. They have also noted a
      survey that found most small businesses believe it
      would not hurt them. Most already pay above it.

      At $5.15 per hour, a person working 40 hours per week
      makes $10,712 per year, about $5,000 below the poverty
      line for a family of three.

      According to federal statistics, in 2005, the latest
      year figures are available, 479,000 people received
      the minimum wage. But several million others were paid
      just a dollar or two more. All would benefit from the
      proposed increase.

      (Additional reporting by Donna Smith)
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