Baucus Caves to Business Interests on Minimum Wage
by Jonathan Singer, Wed Jan 10, 2007 at 10:40:03 AM EST
As the House of Representatives looks to move forward with clean legislation to increase the minimum wage for the first time in a decade (i.e. not containing any gifts to corporate interests), on the other side of the Capitol Sen. Max Baucus, who as Democratic chairman of the Finance Committee is handling the companion bill, has apparently caved to business groups interested in making such a move more palatable to their members. CQ's Midday Update email has the story (no link available).
Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., unveiled four proposals at a morning hearing, including one to cut small business depreciation schedules from 29 years to 15 years, which would let those businesses to write off investments faster.
Baucus and ranking Republican Charles E. Grassley of Iowa have been working on the package for several days and plan to mark it up Jan. 17. Minimum wage legislation could come to the Senate floor next week.
Senate Democrats, lacking the 60 votes needed to overcome filibusters in the Senate, have known all along they would need to accept some "sweeteners" for business to get a minimum wage hike through.
In a statement of administration policy, the White House today said it "strongly supports" adding business-friendly provisions to the House minimum wage bill.
There is no reason whatsoever for the Democrats to give in to the demands of the business lobby at this point. The service and retail sectors spent big dollars in recent years to convince the Republican Congress not to increase the minimum wage, giving $28,537,380 to GOP candidates over the last two cycles and just $11,277,663 to Democrats. This effort was a complete success as Republicans obstructed Democratic moves to boost the minimum wage for years. Yet the Democrats won control of both chambers of Congress on November 7, in no small part as a result of their calls to raise the minimum wage.
Now the Democrats have a responsibility to follow through with their campaign promises, not only because it makes for good politics but also because it makes for good policy. But good policy does not include handing massive giveaways to the business lobby to buy their support for legislation they have fought with all of their might to oppose. Simply put, Americans rejected the position of these special interest lobbyists last fall, and Congress must listen to the voters rather than K Street.
It is certainly possible that the Democrats, at this point, do not have enough votes to invoke cloture on a clean minimum wage bill in the Senate. But if this is the case, then the Democratic leadership in the chamber should at least hold a vote to put Republican Senators -- particularly those up for reelection next year -- on the record either for or against raising the minimum wage. Even if such a gambit fails, the Democrats could always go back and try to pick off wayward Senators with enticements at that point. But to give away the house so early in the game is unconscionable, and Senator Baucus should know that. And, what's more, Harry Reid, Dick Durbin and the rest of the Senate Democratic leadership need to make it clear to Baucus that this type of unnecessary kowtowing to the business community will not be tolerated in the 110th Congress.