One of the first actions of the new Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives will directly affect U.S. businesses.
Increasing the minimum wage in the “first 100 hours” will be a priority when the new 110th Congress convenes in January 2007, said California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who will become the House’s first female speaker. She made her comments to cheering supporters and the press early Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, several states approved increases in their own minimum wages during Tuesday elections, creating a majority of states which now require higher pay than the federal rate.
The current federal minimum wage is $5.15. That could rise up to $7.25, under the new Democratic majority. The base pay hasn’t been raised for nine years.
Pelosi said the Democrats would also seek quick passage of legislation adopting the 9/11 Commission’s anti-terrorism agenda and letting Medicare compete for cheaper drug prices.
“The campaign is over. Democrats are ready to lead. We are prepared to govern,” she said. “We will do so working together with the administration and the Republicans in Congress in partnership, not in partisanship.”
However, boosting minimum wage will face some opposition. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for one, opposes it, saying it would put a greater burden on small businesses and price least-qualified workers out of the market. If the wage is increased, says the Chamber, there should be a corresponding reduction in government regulations on small businesses.
At press time on Wednesday, the Democrats had won more than the 15 seats they needed to take control of the House. However, in the Senate—where they needed six to take control—remained in doubt, because of incomplete returns in Montana and Virginia.
Meanwhile, proposals to change base pay (by amending their constitutions or changing the law) were approved by voters in Arizona, Colorado, Ohio, Nevada, Missouri, and Montana.