What: All Issues : Government Checks on Corporate Power : S. 256. Bankruptcy/Labor/Vote on Amendment to Raise the Federal Minimum Wage (2005 senate Roll Call 26)
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S. 256. Bankruptcy/Labor/Vote on Amendment to Raise the Federal Minimum Wage
senate Roll Call 26     Mar 07, 2005
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In this vote, the Senate defeated an amendment offered by Edward Kennedy (D-MA) to S. 256, a Republican-sponsored bill to alter federal bankruptcy rules, that would have raised the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour over a period of two years. If this amendment passed, it would have been the first raise in the federal minimum wage in eight years. On behalf of Democrats, including Progressives, Kennedy argued that minimum-wage earners deserve to be paid fair wages for the hard work that they do. He noted that as the minimum wage has remained stagnant, Americans have "work[ed] longer and harder," and their "productivity has increased," but they have worked for less real money as costs of living have increased as well. Republicans countered that raising the minimum wage to $7.25 would lead to job loss because it would "price workers out of the market," and further suggested that for the federal government to "set prices . . . to set wages" would put the United States on a par with other governments where the prices are set by the "central government," such as Cuba and North Korea. (John Sununu (R-NH).) Some Republicans supported an alternative amendment offered by Rick Santorum (R-PA) that would have raised the minimum wage to $6.25 per hour but also reduced the number of workers required to be covered by the minimum wage and cut overtime protections. Though offered several times before in conjunction with other bills, Kennedy's amendment here was one of a series offered by Progressives to limit the bankruptcy bill's scope because, overall, they viewed S. 256 as benefiting large corporations, such as credit card companies, at the expense of middle and lower-class Americans. They maintained that S. 256 would actually require individuals who deserve full protection in bankruptcy to meet additional barriers, like higher attorneys' fees and more paperwork. Republicans countered that the bill would curb abuses of the bankruptcy system by making it harder for those who could pay their debts to escape them. In addition, Republicans were anxious to keep the bill "clean," meaning free from most amendments, because the House had already indicated it would not accept a bankruptcy bill laden with amendment language. Progressives' loss in this amendment by a vote of 46 to 49 was one of numerous losses in their attempts to tilt the balance of S. 256 more toward average consumers and away from credit card companies and other creditors.

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