Senate Democrats said Monday they would block action on a bill to help fired White House travel office employees unless Republicans gave them a vote on a minimum-wage increase.
The Democratic decision to filibuster the travel office bill was the latest attempt to force the GOP-controlled Congress to act on their demands that the $4.25-an-hour minimum wage be raised 90 cents over two years.
The Republican leadership, said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., “underestimates the extraordinary frustration that Democrats are feeling” over their inability to get a minimum wage vote.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., seeking to break a legislative logjam caused by the minimum-wage dispute, said he would go to Daschle with a new proposal on Tuesday.
The Democrats are seeking to attach the minimum wage issue to a bill to reimburse legal expenses of the seven employees fired from the White House travel office in May 1993. It would pay ousted travel office director Billy Dale and his former colleagues some $500,000.
Republicans have accused the White House of firing the employees and initiating an FBI investigation of alleged travel office mismanagement in order to staff the office with friends of President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The furor resulted in five of the seven original travel office employees being offered new government jobs. A federal jury acquitted Dale last year of embezzlement charges. A seventh employee retired.
The bill passed the House in March by 350-43 and Clinton, who has said he was sorry about what Dale went through, has said he would sign it.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, angrily accused Senate Democrats of playing a “two-bit game” in stalling the measure over the minimum wage.
“Where is the compassion the Democrats say they have, where is the fairness, where is the care for somebody who has been besmirched and everybody admits it?” he asked.
Daschle responded that Democrats had “no choice” but to block the travel office bill because Republicans had repeatedly prevented a vote on the minimum wage.