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Renewed Push to Raise the Minimum Wage

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) calls for a minimum-wage hike in August. Now that the Democrats have taken control of the House and Senate, they are likely to renew their efforts to raise the federal minimum wage. Getty Images hide caption

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The Democrats want to raise the minimum wage from the current level, $5.15 an hour, to $7.25 through a three-step phased increase. If a bill passes, it would mark the first change in the federal minimum wage since 1997.

In his post-election press conference, President Bush seemed open to some sort of increase.

"There's an area where I believe we can make some, find common ground," the president said. "And as we do, I'll be, of course, making sure . . . there's compensation for the small businesses in the bill."

Some economists argue that increases in the minimum wage raise labor costs and push businesses to actually cut low-wage jobs.

The minimum-wage issue proved popular in Tuesday's election. Voters in six states — Ohio, Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana and Missouri — passed increases. Average support at the polls was 65 percent.

Democrats tried to pass a federal minimum-wage increase last summer. But Republicans demanded that they cut the estate tax as well. Democrats decided they would rather let the minimum wage measure die if it meant cutting taxes on the rich.