President Bush and his point man on the Senate Labor Committee, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, lost a battle Wednesday over how high the minimum wage should be raised.
The committee voted 11-5 to support a bill by committee chairman Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., to raise the minimum wage from $3.35 an hour to $4.65 by 40-cents-per-year increments over three years.That came after Hatch unsuccessfully tried to replace it with a Bush Administration proposal to raise the minimum wage to $4.25 over three years and to establish a $3.35 an hour "training wage" that could be paid to new hires during their first six months.
Hatch argued that a $4.65 minimum wage would eliminate at least 650,000 jobs nationally - and 12,000 in Utah - because employers no longer could afford them. But he said enacting a "training wage" would save up to 61 percent of them.
Kennedy argued a training wage would just allow employers to fire long-time employees to hire younger people at lower wages.
Hatch also reminded the committee, on which he is the ranking Republican, that Bush has vowed to veto any minimum wage higher than $4.25 and any new minimum wage that is not accompanied by a lower training wage.
Hatch told Kennedy in debate that if he accepted Bush's compromise, "Imagine, Mr. Chairman, no filibuster, no veto, no muss, no fuss. You could set a speed record in the Senate for the fastest passage of a minimum wage increase."
Now, the muss, fuss, filibuster and veto are waiting in the wings, he said.
Kennedy said he stands firm on his proposal because the minimum wage has not been raised in eight years, and if it had kept pace with inflation it would now be $4.60 an hour.
But Hatch said the minimum wage increase "could jeopardize jobs for the very group of people we say we want to help."
Hatch said Bush decided to be straightforward with the Senate by telling it directly how high he was willing to go ($4.25).