Saturday, July 29, 2006

GOP Hates Raising Wages, But Loves Paris Hilton

Why can't the GOP just help Joe Minimum Wage without also helping Paris Hilton? House Democrats tried to get Republican leaders to bring a simple up or down vote to increase the minimum wage per HR 2429, the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would increase the wage to $7.25 an hour. But Republicans instead passed a sham minimum wage bill that would include $310 billion in tax giveaways over the next 10 years. The Republican bill shifts some coal companies' costs for retiree health benefits and land reclamation to taxpayers and will not collect taxes on estates worth up to $5 million per individual as of January 1, 2015. It also gradually increases exemption from gift taxes to $5 million. (Rueters 7/29/06)

Republicans in the senate have blocked Democratic efforts to simply raise the minimum wage 9 times since 1997. As DailyKos reported:

With the estate tax and other repeals, House Democrats will not support the legislation and it will never make it to the Senate floor. This is all about House GOP members being able to go home for the August recess and say they voted for a minimum wage increase. It's not about raising the living standard for the 14.9 million minimum wage workers in this country. It's about trying to blunt criticism.

Clearly, this is another example of Sweeney claiming that he supports something that would be good for New York residents and businesses and being unable to get his party to pass a good bill that does what it should. Republicans know that the poison pill tax giveaways they included mean that it will probably fail in the senate. Our national debt and the war with Iraq can't allow us to pass the Republican giveaways which were rejected in the senate twice last month. Today's New York Times says:

...The Senate has rejected fiscally irresponsible estate tax giveaways before and will reject them again,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, who added that the Republican approach amounted to legislative blackmail. ...

Bloomberg sums up:

July 29 (Bloomberg) -- The House voted to boost the minimum wage for the first time since 1997 in Republican-backed legislation that also cuts $310 billion in taxes, largely by reducing a levy on multimillion-dollar estates.

The minimum wage increase, and the inclusion of $38 billion in tax cuts that many Democrats support, were described by some Republicans as a bid to attract votes for the estate tax legislation when it reaches the Senate, where it has been rejected twice in the last month.

The House passed the legislation at almost 2 a.m. on a vote of 230-180.

Democrats called it a legislative hoax that allows Republicans to show public support for the poor during an election year while piling on tax breaks for the wealthy that ensure the measure won't become law.

``It's cynical because they know that a minimum-wage bill with these poison pills will be dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate,'' House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said. ...

House Republicans angered many senators by boycotting a negotiating session Thursday over whether to include the tax cuts, extending expiring tax provisions in the pension measure. House leaders ultimately added the cuts to the minimum wage legislation to try to attract Democratic support for the estate tax measure. ...

Nancy Pelosi calls the Republican bill a sham and wrote to Democratic House leaders:

The Republican Leadership has stated that a minimum wage bill will be brought to the floor this evening. . . . The legislation will package three separate bills - minimum wage, estate tax, and the extension of expiring tax provisions - into a single package that will make Senate passage impossible. This is nothing more than a cynical, political ploy to defeat a minimum wage increase because this bill will go nowhere in the Senate. . . .

First, at this time, it appears that the Republican leadership plans to use the estate tax and extenders package as a "poison pill." Senate tax-writers have already rejected, on a bipartisan basis, proposals that combine the estate tax with a tax extenders package.

Second, the cost of the combined tax package the Republican Leadership is proposing is likely to be more than $800 billion for the first ten years that the bill is in effect. This comes at a time when Republican economic policies have already resulted in trillions of dollars in debt.

Third, the Republican Leadership has not yet decided whether they will provide a real minimum wage increase. The amount of the increase, the number of years required for such an increase to take effect, and whether a large swath of workers now covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act will lose their protections is still undecided. There is no reason for any Democrat to support a minimum wage bill that reduces or draws out an increase, or which leaves millions of workers behind in coverage.

While the details of the Republican Leadership plan may change, their intention is clear: make every appearance that Republicans support a minimum wage increase, while ensuring its demise in the Senate by attaching "poison pills."

The only way to ensure that a minimum wage increase is enacted is to allow a straight up-or-down vote on HR 2429, the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which provides an increase to $7.25 an hour.

See how Sweeney voted 6 times in the last month to prevent a minimum wage increase vote in the house in What we "learned" about Sweeney and the minimum wage

Interesting in light of yesterday's post about Sweeney and the CNMI Sweatshops, the version of the wage increase that Sweeney was supporting on July 12 of this year, was not HR 2429 but was one that included language about the wages in the CNMI. Sweeney's website says he was the first republican sponsor of H.R. 3413, and according to the bill's text, it was introduced by NY Republican Mr. Boehlert.

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Related: Media Matters reports that "The New York Times and The Washington Post credited GOP "moderates" with forcing the Republican leadership to allow a vote on increasing the minumum wage, burying the fact that Democrats have been pushing for years to increase the minimum wage." (Read the full story here)

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