CHN: Minimum Wage Increase, Children’s Health Attached To Supplemental Spending Bill

Despite strong support in the House and Senate, the increase in the minimum wage has still not moved to final passage.  The minimum wage bill initially passed by the House was a clean bill.  However, the Senate-passed bill added $8.3 billion in so-called small business tax cuts to its minimum wage increase. Although House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rangel (D-NY) initially objected to combining tax breaks with the minimum wage, his committee, with bipartisan support, adopted its own $1.3 billion small business tax cut package which was added to the minimum wage and overwhelmingly approved by the House.  Since then there has been a House and Senate stalemate.  Conferees have not even been appointed to a conference committee to work out the differences in the bills.
In an attempt to move forward with an increase in the minimum wage, House Leadership decided to attach the House version of the bill to the emergency supplemental spending bill winding its way through Congress.  The House Appropriations Committee approved the $124 billion spending bill on March 15.  During consideration of the bill, the most contentious debate focused on whether to include language that would set a timetable for removing U.S. troops from Iraq.

The funding level in the bill that passed the committee is $21 billion higher than the President requested and includes money for a number of domestic programs.  It provides $750 million to cover an anticipated shortfall this year in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), $2.4 billion for Homeland Security programs, $1.4 billion for veterans’ health accounts, $4 billion for farm disaster relief, $1 billion for pandemic flu preparations, and $1.3 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers for levees.

The full House will vote on the supplemental spending bill next week.  The Senate held a separate debate this week with votes on Iraq resolutions.  The Senate will mark up its version of the supplemental spending bill next week.  It is unclear what will happen with the minimum wage as the supplemental bill moves forward.  Advocates who have viewed the enactment of the minimum wage increase as all but certain have become increasingly impatient with its entanglement with other issues.

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