Congressional Democrats press Republicans on minimum wage hike
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Congressional Democrats were trying to step up the
pressure on Republicans to resume negotiations Wednesday over legislation to increase the minimum wage by $1 an hour, while warning them against trying to eliminate protections and benefits for workers.
"We believe it is imperative that the more than 10 million workers who earn the minimum wage receive an increase as soon as possible," congressional Democrats wrote in a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois.
Hastert made overtures toward compromise on a minimum wage increase in a
letter to President Clinton last month, saying he would back a $1 per year
boost in exchange for tax breaks for small businesses and some changes in work
The size of those tax breaks remains a stumbling block. In two bipartisan
meetings on the issue, Republicans have offered more than $70 billion in tax
benefits, while Democrats prefer smaller cuts.
They also asked Hastert to explain how the GOP plans to dedicate 90 percent of the surplus to debt reduction fits into his small business tax cut
Democrats are now pointing to concerns beyond the tax cut package, saying
Hastert's proposal would take away overtime protections for workers.
"At a time when productivity of the American workforce is at an all-time
high and workers are putting in more hours than at any other time in recent
history, we cannot support any proposal that deprives American workers of their
overtime and minimum wage protections," wrote Democrats.
Democrats take issue in their letter with what they see as the Republican
failure to help restaurant workers by increasing the federal floor for tipped
employees, now $2.13 an hour, and language they say could discourage employers
from offering health care coverage.