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GOP Stalls On Minimum Wage To Avoid Iraq Votes

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The majority of Senate Republicans filibustering and delaying the passage of a new minimum wage law may be heartless, but they're not dumb. They know that bumping the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour is enormously popular with the American people and they're also aware that it passed by huge numbers in the House of Representatives, with 80 Republicans voting in favor of helping the working poor. So why the stalling? Why put off the inevitable with over 100 nonsensical amendments, while already voting once against ending debate on a clean minimum wage bill? Well, folks, it's kind of like the Seinfeld episode, where George Costanza knows his girlfriend is about to break up with him so he just ducks her -- breaks dates, pretends he's not home, doesn't answer the phone, reasoning that if he can stall her by not being available, she can't break up with him. Except in this case, the Republicans figure that if they can keep the Senate occupied indefinitely with an open-and-shut thing like a minimum wage increase, they can avoid the thing they fear most -- having to vote on any of the myriad Iraq-war resolutions waiting in the wings. "Tuesday, we'll have a vote and, you know, they may defeat cloture just like they did on the ethics thing," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), at a joint press conference with Ted Kennedy (D-MA) on Friday. "They know that they're on the wrong side on this issue. And we're going to not let them forget it." "If they defeat cloture on minimum wage, they think we're going to bring this right back? Oh, no we're not. We're going to move to another subject they don't like to talk about: escalation of the war in Iraq... they know when minimum wage is finished, we're going to Iraq." Reid has the bipartisan Biden-Hagel-Levin resolution against the escalation of the Iraq war waiting in the wings and my bet is that, if Republicans filibuster -- vote against cloture -- on the minimum wage legislation on Tuesday, Reid will temporarily table that legislation, call the Republicans on their game and move on to the Iraq war. Senate Democrats can then bring the minimum wage -- which now contains $8 billion in new tax breaks for small businesses -- right back after Iraq resolutions and ongoing funding for troops (already in Iraq) are handled. "It took the House of Representatives four hours to increase the minimum wage with 80 Republicans supporting it," said Kennedy at the Friday news conference with Reid. "Why, Mr. Republican, will you not permit the Senate of the United States to increase the minimum wage, which has not been increased for 10 years for men and women who are at the lower end of the economic ladder, men and women of dignity who take a pride in their work, who are trying to provide for their family?" And Kennedy, who has fought for years to get the minimum wage increased, agrees with Reid that stalling from the Republican side of the aisle has nothing to do with the wage bill itself and everything to do with their fear of having to take a stand on the war. According to Kennedy , any Republicans voting against the minimum wage increase on Tuesday will effectively be telling Americans that they don't want to move on to Iraq votes, meaning that they want to stay in Iraq indefinitely. "The vote will be, effectively, the vote on the war. And the American people will understand it. And there is nothing that Mitch McConnell can do about that," said Kennedy. "So make no mistake about it, Mr. Republicans, we're going to get -- under the leadership of Harry Reid, we're going to get a vote, one way or the other. The American people are entitled to it. Under the cloture, that'll be the vote. It'll be the vote on the war." I believe what will take place is that the minimum wage vote will occur as scheduled and, if the Republicans block it again, Reid will set it aside, bring it back in a few weeks and jump immediately to Iraq. He said as much on Friday. "I'll tell you one thing: There are 21 Republicans up for reelection this time. If they think this is going to be a soft vote for them, they've got another thing coming," said Reid. " So let them defeat cloture. I'll take that bill [minimum wage] off the floor in five seconds and we'll get to debating Iraq." Meanwhile, Kennedy keeps plugging away while getting angry enough, as he did on Thursday night, to ask just what the hell Republicans have against working Americans. "I've said on the floor of the United States Senate, and I still question our Republican leadership," said Kennedy. "What is it about hard-working people that the Republicans don't like? What is it, Mr. Republican, that you cannot stand about hard- working Americans at the lower end of the economic ladder?" You can read more from Bob at BobGeiger.com.
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Bob Geiger is a writer, activist and Democratic operative in Westchester County, NY.
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