With Democrats and some of their own members calling for a vote to raise the minimum wage, House Republican leaders Wednesday virtually slammed the door on such a proposal and said they would offer a package of tax cuts and labor reforms instead.
In a written statement issued late Wednesday, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, listed seven proposals they said would “increase job opportunities, increase take-home pay, stimulate economic growth and raise the standard of living of hard-working American families.”
The Gingrich-Armey list included several proposals offered by the GOP last year, such as a $500-a-child tax credit for working families, reforms of the Earned Income Tax Credit, tax incentives to businesses that create new jobs, pension, labor and liability reforms and a provision that would exempt a portion of union dues from being used for political activities.
The list did not include the minimum wage, nor did the leaders mention it directly.
Earlier in the day Wednesday, when asked if Republican leaders would bring the minimum wage to the floor any time soon, Armey said: “I wouldn’t hold my breath on it.”
President Bill Clinton has proposed raising the $4.25-an-hour minimum wage to $5.15-an-hour over two years. A group of about 20 moderate Republicans last week called for raising the wage to $5.25 over two years.
Armey, a vigorous opponent of any federal minimum wage, lent his support to a proposal touted by some Republicans as an alternative to raising the minimum wage. The plan would dramatically change the Earned Income Tax Credit - which reduces taxes for some low-income workers - by eliminating the credit for workers without children and increasing it for workers with children.
When combined with the current minimum wage of $4.25-an-hour, the proposal would raise the effective hourly wage for an adult with one child to $5.47 and to $6.37 for an adult with two children, said Rep. Cass Ballenger, R-N.C.
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., said the Republican plan would require the government to raise taxes on low-income workers without children in order to raise wages for low-income workers with children “all to keep the businesses that hire people at the minimum wage from having to pay any more. It’s ridiculous.”