Senate Republicans are stalling action on a Democratic plan to raise the $3.35 minimum wage in high-stakes parliamentary manuevering being played out against a backdrop of presidential politics.
The Republicans want a chance to add a lower pay rate for unskilled workers and action on President Reagan's nominees to the federal bench before Democrats can move on the first hike in the minimum wage in eight years."Unless we see progress with the judges and keep our ability to amend, we're going to be on the minimum wage a long time," Senate GOP Whip Alan Simpson of Wyoming said Tuesday.
Simpson made the comment following separate party strategy luncheons after Democratic Leader Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia filed a second cloture motion in as many days to limit further debate on the bill by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.
According to the Senate Judiciary Committee, 25 nominations by Reagan for federal judgeships are now pending before the panel and four other nominations are on the calendar for Senate floor action.
Kennedy's bill would raise the minimum wage by 40 cents an hour each of the next three years - to $3.75 in January, to $4.15 in 1990 and to $4.55 in 1991.
Vice President George Bush's presidential campaign said Tuesday that Bush likely would not unveil any specific minimum wage proposal until after his debate this Sunday with Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis.
"We're exploring a modest increase so long as it's tied to a subminimum or training wage," said David Sandor, a Bush campaign spokesman. "But there's nothing scheduled for this week."
Bush's vice presidential running mate, Sen. Dan Quayle, R-Ind., offered an amendment in the Senate Labor Committee in July for raising the minimum wage over two years to $4 an hour and coupling it with an 80 percent subminimum for new hires.
The minimum wage has been stuck at $3.35 since 1981, with the Reagan administration contending for the past three years that any increase would have to be coupled with a subminimum standard.
The White House reiterated that position Tuesday, saying its senior advisers would recommend that Reagan veto any minimum wage increase that does not include a "training wage at a rate approximately four-fifths of the minimum wage for a specified period of time."
"The training wage would permit the administration to consider a reasonable increase in the minimum wage that would not bring about the unacceptable adverse economic effects" of Kennedy's bill, the White House said in a statement of administration policy.