Minimum Wage Bill Tied to Iraq Funding (2 Updates)

Nancy Pelosi gets more interesting by the minute. Refusing to sit still for a threatened Republican filibuster of the minimum wage bill because the House cut $$$7Billion in corporate tax breaks out of the Senate version, she has come up with a whole new tactic: she’s tying it to the war appropriations package.

House leaders have added legislation raising the federal minimum wage to an emergency spending bill for the Iraq war. They hope to break a logjam with the Senate over the wage bill, a top Democratic priority that was once seen on Capitol Hill as a relatively easy compromise.

House leaders also hope the addition of the wage provisions will induce House liberals to vote for the $105 billion war package, which authorizes funds for Iraq while setting a timeline for withdrawal that would require combat operations to end by August 2008.

House Democrats unveiled the plan yesterday but did not release a draft of the legislation, saying that details were being worked out. According to Democratic aides, the proposal would increase the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour from $5.15 over two years and grant $1.3 billion in tax breaks for restaurants and other affected businesses.

Those provisions have already passed the House. The Senate also approved the wage increase, but added $8.3 billion in business tax breaks to placate Republicans in that chamber. House leaders oppose such a large tax package and hope to force a smaller one through the Senate by tying the minimum-wage increase to the Iraq bill.

The Republics, of course, have been furious because she wouldn’t let them turn a bill to raise the minimum wage for ordinary workers into a huge barrel of corporate pork. Charlie Grassley was already whining that the original $$$8Billion$$$ was “peanuts”. He’s choking on the new number, apoplectic, you might say. He called it “a peanut shell”.

Which, to the corporatocracy, it is. A measly $$$billion$$$? Over the last decade of Pub control, they got used to extorting that much just to hype Chicken McNuggets in Shang’hai. A mere $$$billion$$$ isn’t even real money. It’s chump-change. They don’t bother to get out of bed in the morning for a lousy $$$billion$$$. The only time a $$$billion$$$ becomes significant to them is when it’s going to somebody else. Workers, for instance.

Don’t know whether Pelosi’s gambit will work but it’s got possibilities. If they go ahead and filibuster, it opens the door to charges that the Pubs care more about obeying their corporate Masters than they do about funding the troops in combat, a nice little squeeze play that has the potential of running them up a stump and the added virtue of being accurate – they do care more about obeying their corporate Masters than about supporting the troops with anything more than rhetorical lip service, as they’ve proved time and time again.

What’s most heartening to me is the suggestion that Democrats – a few of them, anyway – finally realize what they’re dealing with: a clutch of conscienceless oligarchs and plutocrat-slaves who have to be fought at every turn and shoved against the wall when they don’t behave. Give them an inch and they’ll take ten miles, everything in your bank account, and your pants while they’re at it. They don’t understand or respond to anything but strength and persistence. To defeat them, you’ve got to be willing to use every weapon in your arsenal.

Pelosi’s got a goddamn armory and is proving she knows how to use it (or at least is learning fast). Good for her.

Update: An interesting discussion with commenter Brendan, who disagreed with Pelosi’s strategy tying the two bills together, partially revolved around his concern about the removal of the language that would have forced Bush to come to the Congress for permission to invade Iraq. Turns out that language-stripping was, as I suspected, the result of pressure from Blue Dog Dems. They threatened to abandon the bill if the language wasn’t removed, and hauled in lobbyists from AIPAC to twist arms. Pelosi gave in.

I still don’t think the language will stay removed (as the linked article shows, Pelosi’s already taking hits over it and there are more to come) but Brendan’s implication that a bad Iraq bill could hurt the passage of the minimum wage portion is clearly justified. It was an interesting strategy but it was a strategy predicated on a fairly strong movement to to get a bill passed on Iraq that would get the troops out in a structured, predictable way. The BD’s have sabotaged that effort pretty thoroughly, and at this point I have to admit Brendan was right: Pelosi’s strategy was interesting and gutsy but it didn’t work, even against the conservative interests in her own party.

Time to regroup. As Brendan said, the bills need to be re-separated and the Iran language needs to be put back in. Otherwise, the min wage section will be held hostage to the fight over Iraq/Iran and could go down because of it.

(Link via poputonian at Hullabaloo)

Update 2 (March 16): Think Progress is reporting that Pelosi, who took a hammering upon removing the requirement for Bush to come to Congress for permission to attack Iran, has reversed her decision…sort of.

House members this week removed language from the Iraq spending bill (which was passed by committee yesterday) that would require President Bush to get congressional authorization for any war against Iran. But CQ reports:

On March 13, the same day House Appropriations Chairman David R. Obey, D-Wis., said he had removed the Iran provision from the draft war spending measure, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., quietly promised Appropriations Committee Democrats that she would soon bring the measure up as a stand-alone bill, said James P. Moran, D-Va., who attended the meeting in Pelosi’s suite.

Like I said….

(Link via Crooks and Liars)

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6 Responses

  1. […] Captain’s Quarters: The Doomed Plan To Doom Iraq ScrappleFace: GOP Iraq Pull-Out Amendment to End War on AIDS BobGeiger.com: A Unified Plan To Leave Iraq From Senate Democrats at-Largely: More Iraq Wackiness Wizbang: Press Release: Pelosi’s Solution for Iraq–Make Love, Not Jihad! Dispatch from the Trench: Minimum Wage Bill Tied to Iraq Funding […]

  2. I’m not so sure about your take on this. Seems to me that the pro-worker and anti-war folks who support the Dems are screwed on this. Either Dems who oppose the war and would like to defund it will have to vote down the minimum wage bill, or else they’ll have to suck it up and approve the so-called “emergency” funding bill against their, and their constituents’, consciences. Way to split your own party, Ms. Pelosi.

  3. Maybe I didn’t make myself clear enough, Brendan. The Iraq bill in question contains a provision that demands the troops be withdrawn from Iraq by Sept of ’08, so if you vote for the min wage bill, you vote for that.

    The party is already split over Iraq. Pelosi’s bill is a compromise aimed at bringing it back together. Adding the min wage to it is a way to force the Pubs’ hand.

    The “so-called emergency bill” was submitted by Bush. It sounds like you’re making the same mistake as the “so-called activist” who ambushed David Obey. You might want to check your facts before you get all outraged.

  4. Hey Mick,

    Thanks for replying to my comment and please accept my apology for taking so long to comment again–I do hope you keep on top of the comments here, (Likewise, I hope that you don’t take my questioning personally, or, even worse, as that of the much-derided ‘troll’ we all run across while traversing the intertubes.)

    See, my understanding of the House war budget bill is that while it sets dates, it lacks any requirement whatsoever that the administration account for its claims about the situation in Iraq and carries no provision specifically calling on Congress to take punitive measures when Bush and Co. do not provide accurate accounts of the nation’s initiative there. Throw in the fact that, in order to make the bill easier to swallow for Republican hawks and their fellow travellers in the Democratic party, Pelosi stripped language stating explicitly that the administration must come to Congress before taking military action in Iran and I see nothing doing on halting our hostile actions in the Middle East. Instead, I see a poison pill that will place the more left-leaning candidates in a quandry, forced to defend their support of half-steps (on workers’ rights or the war, it matters not in this context which issue we discuss) or risk being seen as supporting something a large chunk of their constituents cleary oppose.

    Please do disabuse me of this, ’cause I do hope I’m missing something here.

  5. Brendan,

    I try to stay with the comments but I get so few I don’t check it as often as I should.

    No, I didn’t take you for a troll but I did think you sounded like one of the left’s ignorant idealists. You obviously aren’t ignorant, and I apologize for thinking you might be. It’s a relief you aren’t. OTOH, you do seem to be a bit of an idealist.

    Look, we’ve recently had Obey ambushed and lefties camping out on Pelosi’s lawn to pressure her. The targets are all wrong. Pelosi isn’t the problem.

    She did what you described because she’s trying to get a bill passed that the Pubs are dead set against and the more conservative Dems aren’t fond of. Politics is, for better or worse, the art of compromise, and what Pelosi and the House leadership put together is the best we’re likely to get given the current make-up of the Congress. The Blue Dogs are still in control of the party and they won’t consider “punitive measures” or an early or total pull-out. If you want to be irate, get pissed at them – they’re the ones who forced her hand. Without them she doesn’t have the votes, it’s that simple. In the House, the Pubs are less of a problem than the BD’s. The language you refer to is less for Pub benefit than to get BD votes in the House and a bill with a chance of passing the Senate.

    I am NOT happy about the removal of the Iran demand but then again, I don’t think that’s going to stand. There are too many Dems – BDs included – who want it in, and in the Senate there are Pubs demanding it as well. I’m not sure why she did it or what pressure she was under or from whom, but any number of Reps and Sens have been very strong about doing it, and in public. So far I see no sign that that’s changing. The fear of Junior pulling another fast one and regionalizing the war is palpable.

    There are certainly dangers in compromising too much – Clinton was the Poster Boy on that – and taking out the requirement for Bush to consult the Congress before he goes charging into Iran crosses the line, imo. But the rest of it starts the withdrawal process and sets a date for the troops to be out. That’s what needs to happen, and this version is the only one likely to get enough votes to pass. At that point, you put your idealism aside and do what you have to do in the best interest of the country. What you don’t want to happen is an endless debate which would mean nothing passes, or an argument because the bill doesn’t go as far as you want it to that splits the party and, again, nothing gets done. If progressives have to defend their support of what you call “half-steps”, then so be it. There are lives at stake here, and the Pub/BD combo is making a better bill and a better plan impossible.

    If you want to get po’d at the Dems, there are better targets who really deserve whatever you want to throw at them. I’d start with the DLC if it was me. And that’s what I’d tell your left-leaners: vote for the damn bill, then work together, support Dean, and take down the goddamn DLC. That, imo, is the most important action to be taken to make the Democratic party safe for liberals and progressives. Without it, this bill wouldn’t be as weak as it has to be. They are the stumbling block.

  6. Thanks for taking the time to explain your views on the bill more thoroughly, Mick.

    Seems you and I will, for the time being, remain in disagreement on this particular issue. Perhaps it is idealism on my part, but I’d rather see the the war and minimum wage increase considered separately. After all, the most accurate and consistent information about the public’s opinion on both matters is at least in-line with, and possibly ahead of, the majority of congressional dems, especially on hiking the wage floor and most other workers’ rights issues. Why the last election itself was largely a referendum on the war and the state of middle class America, most daily papers and tv news folks conceded as much.

    I wholly agree with your contention that giving the pro-business, pro-war crowd a little leverage is dangerous. So why are the dems doing it on two issues where the majority of the public is clearly on their side? The dems need not compromise so quickly or readily here.

    An armory? Using it well? Sorry, nothing I’ve seen yet has convinced me of that at all. I’m holding out hope, though, and I agree that the DLC is a huge part of the party’s problem. But hey, those politicians need cash to get re-elected, right? I suppose it is tough to toss the big-money folks over…

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