STEVE INSKEEP, host:
That Senate debate on the Iraq war has been put off until the Senate finishes work on raising the minimum wage. Few lawmakers say they're flatly opposed to that popular measure, but many would like to add something to it before it becomes law.
Here's NPR's Brian Naylor.
BRIAN NAYLOR: Three weeks ago the House voted overwhelmingly to raise the minimum wage. It took about three hours of debate with no amendments. But the Senate likes amendments and it moves at its own pace - in a word: slow - too slow for Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.
Senator EDWARD KENNEDY (Democrat, Massachusetts): Every member of Congress has made $3,840 in the last week. $3,840 - what a minimum wage worker would make in four months.
NAYLOR: The bill raises the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour over two years. It would be the first increase in the minimum wage in almost 10 years. But Republicans have filed dozens of amendments, some related to the minimum wage; most of them not. The biggest attaches $8.3 billion in business tax cuts intended to offset the higher business payrolls the minimum wage hike would cause.
But South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint, among the 10 Republicans who voted against ending debate yesterday, said the minimum wage was unfair to states like his.
Senator JIM DEMINT (Republican, South Carolina): Unfortunately, over the course of this discussion I've been forced to conclude that this whole debate is, let's just say, less than honest. What we're talking about here in the Senate is not really about helping low-income workers. This is about mandating a starting wage, not a minimum wage, on a select group of states.
NAYLOR: Still, the 87-10 vote yesterday made it clear the wage hike has wide bipartisan support, at least as long as the tax cuts are attached. So the next test is likely to be House resistance to the tax cuts and the revenue loss that goes with them. It's an issue Democratic leaders will have to resolve before they can keep their promise to low-wage workers.
Brian Naylor, NPR News, the Capitol.
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