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Below the Minimum | The Nation

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The Notion

Unfiltered takes on politics, ideas and culture from Nation editors and contributors.

Below the Minimum

For the third time in two weeks, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives will prevent a vote today on raising the minimum wage.

The House Appropriations Committee actually did pass an amendment to a labor and health spending bill by Steny Hoyer and George Miller on June 13 to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. Almost immediately, the Republican leadership shelved the bill indefinitely.

The next week, Hoyer offered the minimum wage amendment to a different spending bill. Of the seven Republicans who initially voted with Hoyer the week prior, five switched their votes and two, Reps. John Sweeney and Jo Ann Emerson, walked out of the room, missing the vote.

Democrats tried again to force a floor vote on the minimum wage, but the House Rules Committee blocked the amendment from being considered last night.

Has there ever been a better illustration of just how out of touch this Republican Congress is? Apparently Congress is too busy cutting the estate tax, banning flag-burning and shelving the Voting Rights Act to bother caring about working Americans.

The Senate has been no better. Last week the Senate voted down a raise, 52-46, eight short of the 60 needed. It was the eleventh time since 1998 that Senate Republicans have blocked a pay increase. Lawmaker annual pay has risen $30,000 since that time.

The minimum wage has been stuck at a paltry $5.15 an hour for the past nine years. That amounts to $10,712 a year. I'd like to see a Congressman or Senator survive on that.

In January, the annual Senate salary will rise to $170,000. Of course, many Senators are already millionaires, so that salary is really just a nice bonus.

According to the New York Times, the top 10 percent of society have a greater share of wealth that at any time since World War II. This Congress and President, more than any other before them, would truly make Herbert Hoover proud.

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