The Minimum Wage Compromise

The minimum wage bill is back, and the House Ways and Means Committee has compromised though it hasn’t caved.

The House Ways and Means Committee yesterday approved a modest package of tax breaks for restaurants and small businesses that would be affected by an increase in the federal minimum wage, breaking a logjam with the Senate that has delayed passage of one of the Democrats’ top legislative priorities.

By a voice vote, the committee agreed to expand and extend a handful of tax credits and deductions worth $1.3 billion over 10 years. Those provisions would be offset by adjustments to the tax code that would raise a similar amount. The full House is expected to vote on the measure later this week, Democratic aides said.

The House tax package is far less generous than an $8.3 billion package approved by the Senate this month under pressure from that chamber’s Republicans, who refused to support a minimum-wage increase unless it included tax relief for small businesses. Senate leaders yesterday said they were hopeful that differences between the two chambers would be worked out. With both houses now willing to go along with tax breaks, congressional aides said it was just a matter of resolving the details.

“The bottom line is, it’s moving in the right direction,” said Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “Everyone recognizes we have to help both the employees and the employers who hire them. I think that’s clear in both parties and in both chambers.”

Apparently McConnell is prepared to accept the Committee’s version if the full House approves it. It may, or it may not. There was a lot of rhetoric around the House about not giving in to Republican blackmail when the Senate passed their version, but the Committee version cuts a full $7Bil from the Senate’s corporate, Republican-forced give-away, and that compromise may be enough to sway the die-hards if the Pubs accept it.

Much as I hate to support blackmail, giving the Pubs their pound of flesh may be the only way to get the minimum wage bill through the Minority-Ruled Senate, and since the Committee’s plan is more targeted to help really small businesses, I suppose I can live with it.

Still, to paraphrase Teddy, it’s a damn shame we can’t give the working poor a break without giving business even more. The minimum wage would be $25/hr if it worked the other way around and, say, every $Billion$ worth of corporate welfare or tax relief had to be balanced by a $1/hr rise in the minimum wage.

Like that’s ever going to happen.

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