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
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
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
President George W. Bush has said he wants tax relief
in the bill to help small business pay for a minimum
"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
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
(Additional reporting by Donna Smith)