- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 24, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Democrats’ promise of a quick increase in the minimum wage ran aground yesterday in the Senate, where lawmakers are insisting it include new tax breaks for restaurants and other businesses that rely on low-pay workers.

On a 54-43 vote, Democrats lost an effort to advance a House-passed bill that would lift the pay floor from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour without any accompanying tax cut. Opponents of the tax cut needed 60 votes to prevail.

The vote sent a message to House Democrats and liberals in the Senate that only a hybrid tax and minimum-wage package could succeed in the Senate. But any tax breaks in the bill would put the Senate on a collision course with the House, which is required by the Constitution to initiate tax measures.

In a separate vote, the Senate also effectively killed a modified line-item veto bill. The Republican-inspired measure would have permitted a president to pluck individual items out of spending bills and submit them to Congress for a vote.

Raising the minimum wage is one of the new Democratic Congress’ top priorities. The wage floor has been unchanged for 10 years. The bill would increase it to $7.25 in three steps over 26 months.

“Why can’t we do just one thing for minimum wage workers, no strings attached, no giveaways for the powerful?” asked Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, a leading sponsor of the bill.

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