By  on May 25, 2007

WASHINGTON — The House voted Thursday night to pass the first hourly federal minimum wage increase in 10 years as part of a compromise emergency war-spending bill negotiated by Congressional leaders and the White House. The Senate also appeared set to pass the legislation.

President Bush, at a news conference in the Rose Garden on Thursday, expressed his support for the $120 billion bill that would provide funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through September, as well as billions of dollars for domestic programs, including an increase in the minimum wage to $7.25 from $5.15 over the course of two years.

Bush vetoed the first war-funding bill Congress sent to him because it contained deadlines for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. As part of the compromise, Democrats gave up their timetable for withdrawal, but the trade-off was funding for domestic programs and a minimum wage increase, which is a cornerstone of their agenda.

The bill also contains $1.05 billion for Homeland Security programs, including $110 million for port security grants in fiscal year 2007, and $75 million for the Customs and Border Protection Secure Freight Initiative and SAFE Port Act implementation of radiation-screening programs of U.S.-bound cargo at six foreign ports.

The House passed two separate measures Thursday night — one providing war funding and the second containing the wage boost and domestic spending — that were then bundled into one bill for the vote in the Senate.

The House and Senate have passed two separate wage-increase measures as well as the boost contained in the legislation Bush vetoed. Efforts to raise the minimum wage had languished because of differences between Democrats and Republicans over the amount of tax incentives for small businesses intended to offset the increase.

Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.), the two chairmen of the tax and trade writing committees, reached a compromise on business tax relief totaling $4.84 billion over 10 years in the first war-funding bill that was vetoed. That tax incentive package once again has been paired with the minimum wage increase in the legislation Congress is expected to pass.

Organized labor, while unhappy with tax breaks for small businesses, hailed the expected passage of the first wage hike in 10 years, while some business groups expressed concerns about the smaller tax incentives.Rob Green, vice president for governmental and political affairs at the National Retail Federation, said the group is concerned about the tax package because it is significantly scaled back from $12.2 billion in tax incentives in a previous Senate bill.

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