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Bill to Increase the Minimum Wage Approved by House

On January 10, the House approved, 315-116, a bill (H.R. 2) to incrementally increase the minimum wage from $5.15 to $5.85 within 60 days of enactment. One year after enactment, it would rise to $6.55; a year after that, it would reach $7.25. The bill also would apply the minimum wage to the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. protectorate. Prior to the vote on H.R. 2, Rep. Howard McKeon (R-CA) offered a motion to recommit the bill that would have added tax credits for small businesses and allowed for the creation of association health plans. The motion failed, 197-232.

Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) said, “As co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, I am so proud to stand with many of my colleagues, as we repeat over and over today how vital this legislation is for women across this country. Women lag far behind men in terms of earnings. Nearly two-thirds of all minimum wage workers are women, many raising children. This bill translates into over 9 million women who will benefit from a long overdue increase in their take-home pay. It is abominable that for the past 10 years we have sat by and watched the cost of everything skyrocket. Health care, child care, food, rent, anything you could think of, except for wages. Minimum wage earners often are single moms and have been forced into longer hours, more jobs, more time away from their families, which, too often, has its own set of unfortunate consequences.”

“What we are not hearing [in this debate] is that per capita disposable income has risen 9.2 percent in real dollars since 2001,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). “[We are not hearing about] all the millions of jobs that have been created, nearly 7 million since 2003 alone. The reason this happens is because of good economic policy, because of good tax policy, because in leaving more money with the individuals that earn it and not doing things that are going to harm small business…We know from the Congressional Budget Office…they estimate that a minimum wage increase without considerations for small businesses and their workers would impose a $5 to $7 billion unfunded mandate on small businesses. Now, I ask my colleagues from across the aisle, are they willing to stand up today and pass an unfunded mandate, a $5 to $7 billion unfunded mandate on our nation’s small businesses? We know, raising the minimum wage will reduce employment, and I encourage my colleagues to oppose the Democratic bill.”

“Nearly 15 million Americans, almost two-thirds of them women, go to work every day caring for our children and frail old people, cleaning up our messes, serving us food in restaurants, and for their efforts receive $5.15 an hour, the federal minimum wage,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). “If they work 52 forty-hour weeks, their annual income adds up to $10,712–$4,367 under the poverty level for a family of three. Other Americans–the CEOs of the nation’s top companies–made on average $10,712 in the first two hours of the first workday of the new year…Those CEOs must really be special compared to the woman who changes their mothers’ diapers or cleans their toilets. If she is a single mom with two children, she has to work 3 minimum wage jobs to provide for her family, according to Wider Opportunities for Women…It’s hard to imagine any member of Congress objecting [to raising the minimum wage]. After all, it’s been 10 years, the longest span ever, since the minimum wage was raised. In that time, we members of Congress have received cost-of-living increases that have raised our salaries over $30,000. Today is the day we stand up for our lowest paid workers. Today is the day we give 15 million Americans a raise. And when we pass this modest increase, we should think of it as a down-payment on our commitment to assure that every hardworking American receives a living wage.”

“The announced purpose of H.R. 2 is to raise living standards for all Americans,” Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). “Employers cannot simply begin paying more to workers whose marginal productivity does not meet or exceed the law-imposed wage. The only course of action available to the employer is to mechanize operations or employ a higher-skilled worker whose output meets or exceeds the minimum wage…Those who are denied employment opportunities as a result of the minimum wage are often young people at the lower end of the income scale who are seeking entry-level employment. Their inability to find an entry-level job will limit their employment prospects for years to come. Thus, raising the minimum wage actually lowers the employment opportunities and standard of living of the very people proponents of the minimum wage claim will benefit from government intervention in the economy. Furthermore, interfering in the voluntary transactions of employers and employees in the name of making things better for low wage earners violates citizens’ rights of association and freedom of contract as if to say to citizens ‘you are incapable of making employment decisions for yourself in the marketplace’…In conclusion, I would remind my colleagues that while it may make them feel good to raise the federal minimum wage, the real life consequences of this bill will be vested upon those who can least afford to be deprived of work opportunities.”

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