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Democrats Hope To End Minimum Wage Debate In US Senate January 26, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–U.S. Senate Democrats are hoping a vote Tuesday will bring an end to debate of legislation that would increase the federal minimum wage to $7.25 per hour from $5.15.

In the five days of debate this week, the Senate has voted on 12 proposed amendments to the bill and 117 more have been proposed.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Friday afternoon took steps to bring debate on the bill to a close. A procedural vote on Reid’s “cloture motion” could come as early as Tuesday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Friday there was no need for the motion.

“There’s going to be a lot of to’ing and fro’ing between now and then, but at some point next week this…is going to pass by a very large bipartisan majority,” McConnell said.

McConnell said that the real story is that Republicans, who hold just 49 of 100 seats in the Senate, will have successfully insisted upon having tax cuts attached to the minimum wage bill.

Reid said the tax issue had been settled for days, but Republicans wanted to keep offering amendments to avoid the next item on the Senate’s calendar: a debate on a resolution opposing President George W. Bush’s plan to increase troops deployed in Iraq.

A test vote earlier this week on passing a “clean” minimum wage bill without tax cuts won a majority on a 54 to 43 vote. But under Senate rules, Democrats needed 60 votes to win.

Since then, the Senate has been debating a proposed alternative that would include $8 billion in tax breaks for small businesses and companies that hire hard to employ workers.

The business community endorses the plan, but is balking at an amendment added to the bill Thursday that would bar companies from getting federal contracts if they were caught hiring illegal immigrants.

The amendment passed unanimously.

The ban applies for 7 years – and for 10 years if the company had a federal contract at the time. The ban also applies whether the company knew the workers were illegal immigrants or not.

“It is neither fair nor reasonable to punish employers for hiring illegal aliens when they have done everything in their power to verify the credentials of their employees,” said Hank Cox, spokesman for the National Association of Manufacturers.

“There is a cottage industry out there in fraudulent identifications and until employers have access to a reliable system for verifying an applicant’s credentials, they cannot reasonably be expected to know which are viable and which are not,” Cox said.

The House passed its own version of the minimum wage bill earlier this month. That bill includes neither tax breaks, nor the illegal immigrant proposal.

By John Godfrey, Dow Jones Newswires

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