Senate Passes Minimum Wage Hike Bond Fails in Bid to Exempt Small Business, New Workers
Charlotte Grimes Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
The Senate overwhelmingly agreed Tuesday to give millions of American workers a pay raise with a 90-cent an hour increase in the minimum wage.
The 74-24 vote followed a major defeat for Sen. Christopher S. Bond, R-Mo., whose amendments to exempt small businesses and new workers had become the battleground for the issue. By a 52-46 vote, Senators rejected those exemptions, which had drawn a veto threat from President Bill Clinton.
After the vote, Bond laid his defeat at the White House door, accusing Clinton of a "public relations blitz" that convinced Senators that the exemptions were poison.
"The president goes to meetings of small business owners and entrepreneurs and says he wants to encourage job growth in this sector," said Bond, chairman of the Small Business Committee. "Then, when he has the opportunity to make good on that promise, he instead leads the effort to kill jobs."
Bond added, "It's outrageous that the Senate has turned its back on the men and women of the smallest businesses in this country, small businesses who now face a 20-percent increase in the minimum wage, which may require them to lay off or fire 20-percent of their minimum wage employees."
The House has already approved a similar package, but a conference committee must work out the differences with the Senate measure. And Republicans signaled Tuesday that they might stall on final passage.
Clinton and the Democrats celebrated the Senate action.
"Today's vote by the Senate means that 10 million hard-working Ame ricans will get a little bit of help to raise their children and keep their families strong," Clinton said. "A 90-cent increase in the minimum wage will honor our most basic values: work and family, opportunity and responsibility."
The increase would be the first in the minimum wage in six years. The legislation calls for a two-step increase, rising first from the current $4.25 an hour to $4.75 on enactment. The rest of the raise - to $5.15 a hour - would go into effect next July.
At a news conference with Bond, Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles, R-Okla., hinted that he might delay the appointment of conference committee members to work out differences with the House bill.
Accusing Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., of tying up health insurance legislation by objecting to conference committee appointees, Nickles said, "I won't block appointment of conferees on minimum wage bill any longer than he has blocked appointment conferees on the health bill."
The House minimum wage vote was managed by another Missourian, Rep. William L. Clay D-Mo. Clay called the Senate action "an important victory for hard-working Americans. …