Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole indicated for the first time Sunday that he would be willing to support a hike in the minimum wage if Democrats and Republicans agree on a seven-year balanced budget plan.
Dole, the likely GOP presidential nominee, has been dogged in recent weeks by his refusal to allow Senate floor votes on various proposals to increase the current $4.25-an-hour minimum wage.
The Kansas senator said on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation” that he was “blindsided” last week by a group of 20 House Republicans who proposed two successive 50-cent increases.
“The House has already indicated they’re going to pass the minimum wage,” Dole said. “It’ll come to the Senate. And what we’ll try to do, if there is an increase, is to package it with some other things.”
But Dole continued to insist that he would not permit a separate vote on the measure and warned that many workers, particularly in the retail and fast-food industries, would lose jobs if a wage hike were enacted.
The Clinton administration was quick to embrace Dole’s remarks on he contentious issue, which Democrats have sought to capitalize on in their campaign to regain control of the House and retain the presidency in the November elections. President Clinton has been calling for raising the minimum wage for the past 14 months.
“President Clinton and moderate Republicans have now joined together to support an increase in the minimum wage,” White House adviser George Stephanopoulos said. “Sen. Dole should follow our lead, and we expect he will eventually.”
Democrats are seeking a 90-cent increase over two years.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said Sunday he also would support a minimum-wage increase, but only if the measure were part of a package that included provisions such as a $500-per-child tax credit and “more take-home pay for union members,” a reference to Republican attempts to restrict union authority to collect fees for political purposes.
Gingrich also said he favored a training wage that would pay a lower initial rate to first-time employees followed by an increase within six months on the job.
Dole said he wanted to tie the increase to new rules for part-time work or compensatory time off, moves that unions “aren’t crazy about.”
Dole noted Sunday that Republicans were prepared to raise the minimum wage as part of an agreement to balance the budget in seven years. He called the Democrats’ demand of seeking separate action a sign that they “have given up on any bipartisan agreement on a budget.”