Minimum wage increase (H.R. 2)/Motion to recommit with instructions to include language allowing employers that provide health benefits to their employees to pay the existing minimum wage of $5.15 per hour
house Roll Call 17 Jan 10, 2007
This vote dealt with a Republican proposal to allow employers providing health insurance benefits to keep paying those employees a minimum wage of $5.15 per hour instead of the increased minimum wage of $7.25 per hour that the bill would phase in over the next two years. The minimum wage bill would represent the first increase in a decade.
The rules for consideration for the legislation barred Republicans from offering an alternative bill or amendments on the House floor. That meant that if they wanted to force a vote on the changes they sought, their only parliamentary option was a motion to recommit. A motion to recommit is the minority's last, and often, as in this case, only chance to make substantive changes to legislation before a final vote.
Rep. Howard McKeon (R-Calif.) moved that the bill be sent back to the Education and Labor Committee with instructions to add the provision, a move known as a motion to recommit with instructions.
McKeon said his provision would "would ensure that if an employer offers health coverage to his or her workers, an incredibly costly yet incredibly important employee benefit, then this employer should not be further burdened with a 41 percent minimum wage mandate imposed by H.R. 2, a mandate thrust upon these employers without any protections at all for small business and their workers."
Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) added that the minimum wage hike would force many employers in her state that are providing health insurance to their employees to stop doing so because they will no longer be able to afford it. "This provision would encourage more small and medium-sized businesses to provide health insurance for their employees," she said.
But Democrats countered that the American people had asked them to provided a minimum wage increase without dilution. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) said it has taken 10 years to get "an up-and-down vote on whether the poorest people in our nation, who are working every day and, at the end of the year, end up poor, deserve a raise."
Miller pointed out that the McKeon language didn't indicate whether the health care coverage offered by employers to avoid paying employees the increased minimum wage would have to be affordable, just that they offer some health care package.
"It doesn't say what the deductibles are, the copayments, which I am sure if you are a minimum wage worker at $5.15 today, a wage that is 10 years old, I am sure you can pay the copayments and the deductibles and the premiums. That will not be a problem," Miller added with sarcasm. "What is it you don't understand about being poor?"
He added that the American people "didn't ask us to trade in the increase in the minimum wage for some phantom health care proposal."
In the end, 54 Republicans sided with all 233 Democrats present in supporting a "clean" minimum wage bill. By a vote of 144-287, the House voted to reject a motion to recommit that would have sent the bill back to committee to add a provision allowing employers that provide health coverage for their employees to opt out of paying those employees an increased minimum wage. A bill to increase the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour over the next two years went forward without Republican amendment.
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