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Democrats cite pope in call for minimum wage hike, jobless benefits

- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2013

Saying they've been inspired by Pope Francis' teaching, Senate Democrats vowed Thursday to force votes on raising the minimum wage, expanding unemployment benefits and giving more taxpayer help to college students.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said the recent papal pronouncement warning of the dangers of income inequality should force Congress to act.

"It challenges all of us, and it particularly challenges those of us who have been blessed to serve in public life," Mr. Durbin said.

The Senate is poised to flee Washington likely over the weekend, taking a two-week Christmas vacation. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said when they return in January they will hold their first vote on a bill to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless yet again.

In a press conference designed to set the early battles next year, Democratic leaders said they see reasons to think Republicans will cave on some of those issues after watching the GOP give in and agree to higher spending levels in 2014 and 2015, coupled with fee hikes.

"The world is changing. The 2010 elections don't govern anymore," said Sen. Charles Schumer, New York Democrat.

Having cleared a budget bill that should lessen the chances of a government shutdown over spending next year, both parties are now trying to set the legislative agenda for January.

House Speaker John A. Boehner on Wednesday released a video preempting Democrats and saying the focus should be on dozens of bills that have already cleared the House to boost American energy production and cut some of the new regulations the Obama administration has imposed on businesses.

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