CHN: Minimum Wage Increase Inches Its Way To Becoming Law

It has been two weeks since the House passed a clean minimum wage bill with no tax cuts.  (See HNR 1-19-07)  In the Senate it has been a grueling process.  A vote on a clean minimum wage bill failed to garner the necessary 60 votes.  Immediately a substitute bill combining an increase in the minimum wage and $8.3 billion in business-related tax cuts was introduced.  In an apparent attempt to slow down the progress on the bill, Republicans filed nearly 200 amendments to the bill.  After two weeks of debate, only one amendment passed.  Senator Sessions’ (R-AL) successful amendment would bar government contractors from receiving future contracts for 10 years if they are found hiring undocumented immigrants.  Businesses that have not received federal contracts and are found to employ undocumented immigrants would be barred from receiving federal contracts for 7 years.  Amendments related to Social Security benefits, overtime pay, more tax cuts, other immigrant provisions, health savings accounts, and others failed either by a vote, because they were declared non-germane, or were withdrawn.
After several days of debate, Democrats filed a cloture motion to stop debate and bring the substitute bill to a vote.  The vote passed overwhelmingly 87-10.  From that point, Senate procedures allowed 30 more hours of debate on more amendments before a final vote.  Finally, the Senate adopted the $7.25 increase in the minimum wage by a vote of 94-3.  “No” votes were cast by Senators Kyl (R-AZ), Coburn (R-OK), and DeMint (R-SC).  Three Senators were not present for the vote.

Next, a House-Senate conference committee will decide what to do about the tax cuts included in the Senate bill.  House Democrats have insisted that the final bill must not include tax cuts.  At this writing it is not clear how the different bills will be resolved.

Senator Kennedy (D-MA) has been a tireless champion of increasing the minimum wage for decades.  He often says, “Raising the minimum wage is not just an economic issue.  It’s a fairness issue, and it’s a moral issue.  It’s not just about a paycheck.  It’s about a just paycheck.”  Thanks to his efforts in the Senate, after waiting 10 years minimum wage workers may finally be headed for a raise.  See CHN statement.

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