Democrats push hard for increase in minimum wage
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats ratcheted up their election-year push for an increase in the federal minimum wage on Tuesday by promising to block a congressional pay hike unless some of the lowest-paid hourly workers get their first raise in nearly a decade.
"Congress is going to have earn its raise by putting American workers first: A raise for workers before a raise for Congress," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
Reid refused to spell out exactly how he will block a $3,300 pay raise scheduled for January 1 for members of Congress, who currently earn $165,200 annually. He said with 40 Senate Democrats backing the maneuver, "We can stop anything they (Republicans) try to do with a congressional pay raise."
Democrats in the House and Senate want the $5.15-per-hour federal minimum wage, in place since 1997, to rise in 70-cent increments to $7.25 by January 1, 2009. Workers earning the current minimum wage would need to work 40 hours a week for 16 weeks to earn the $3,300 pay raise expected for Congress.
In arguing for the minimum-wage increase, Democrats are emphasizing that salaries for members of Congress have risen $31,600 during the time the minimum wage has been frozen.
They complain that rising costs for gasoline, utilities, education and food have taken a chunk out of minimum-wage paychecks, which sometimes have to support entire families.
Republicans in Congress have blocked numerous attempts to raise the minimum wage, paid to about 7 million workers, saying it would backfire by causing small businesses to hire fewer entry-level employees.
HOUSE VOTE BLOCKED
But with Republican control of the House and Senate uncertain after the November congressional elections, some moderate Republicans have been joining with Democrats to support a minimum-wage increase.
"I think it's the right thing to do. It seems like if I can defend and be sincere about tax cuts, some to the wealthiest, if I can do that," then a minimum wage increase is also in order, Rep. Mike Simpson (news, bio, voting record), an Idaho Republican, said in a recent interview with Reuters.
The complete story may be found here: