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In the end, the measure to halt the minimum wage in the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa attracted overwhelming bipartisan support. It passed the Senate without dissent, and was approved by the House by a 386-5 vote.

Mr. McHenry cast one of the five opposing votes, and he said he wasn’t going to give Democrats a pass for imposing the minimum wage in the first place.

“I’m not providing political cover for Nancy Pelosi,” he said.

One of the four others who voted against the bill, Rep. Ralph M. Hall of Texas, later entered a statement in the Congressional Record saying he miscast his vote. Reps. Devin Nunes, California Republican; Dale E. Kildee, Michigan Democrat; and Bill Owens, New York Democrat, never explained their votes on the floor, and their offices didn’t return messages seeking comment.

In fact, a number of those involved with the minimum-wage issue appeared not to want to talk about it. The White House didn’t return a call seeking comment, nor did the AFL-CIO, the chief umbrella group for labor unions. American Samoa Gov. Togiola Tulafono’s office didn’t return an e-mail for comment, and Mr. Faleomavaega didn’t respond to two phone calls seeking his views.

Gerard Finin, deputy director of the East-West Center’s Pacific Islands Development Program, said the debate doesn’t necessarily translate to the mainland U.S. debate because a huge proportion of the workers in the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa were guest workers, brought in under the territories’ immigration rules. He said those foreign guest workers are the ones who are most likely benefiting from the minimum wage.

“Sometimes, the debate is framed as one where it’s helping local residents, and I sometimes question that,” he said.

Still, he said, it makes sense to eventually have the territories reach the same wage floor as the rest of the U.S. - as long as it’s done at the right pace.

“Ultimately, I believe that the minimum-wage laws should apply to the entire U.S., but I think there may be a need for some breathing room in the process. That’s what this legislation will allow for,” he said.