House Plans Vote On Minimum Wage

Protestors march for higher minimum wage, Columbus, Ohio, 7-10-06
House Republican leaders plan a vote to raise the $5.15 minimum wage before leaving Washington this weekend for a five-week recess.

"Whether people like it or not, we need to go ahead with it," said Republican Congressman Mike Castle, who supports the idea. "There's a general agreement among Republicans (opposing the raise) that "maybe we don't like it much, but we need to move forward with it just for political reasons."

The No. 3 House Republican leader, Majority Whip Roy Blunt, said the plan was to have a vote before week's end. But Majority Leader John Boehner said Republican leaders were working to pass the increase but that "no decisions have been made."

It was a decade ago, during the hotly contested campaign year of 1996, that Congress last passed an increase in the minimum wage. A person working 40 hours per week at minimum wage makes $10,700, which is below the poverty line for workers with families.

Democrats have made increasing the wage a pillar of their campaign platform and are pushing to raise the wage to $7.25 per hour over two years. In June, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to raise the minimum wage, rejecting a proposal from Democrats.

Republican Congressman Howard McKeon, the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said Republican lawmakers would embrace the increase to $7.25 per hour and probably attach a proposal passed last year that would make it easier for small business to band together and buy health insurance plans for employees at a lower cost.