Democrats tout min wage increase attached to war funding bill
In a press conference Friday following their failure to impose any deadlines on the war in Iraq, Democratic leaders bragged about the passage of a minimum wage increase that was attached to the war-funding measure.
Although a majority of the Democratic caucus -- including Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- voted against the $120 billion supplemental bill, that didn't stop party leaders from trying to wring some good news from its passage.
Pelosi said the party delivered on promises it made during the election to implement ethics reform and increase the minimum wage -- which were passed by the House in a separate measure. And she downplayed the supplemental funding bill that would essentially maintain the status quo in Iraq for at least the next four months. She said the fact that 140 House Democrats voted against the funding bill demonstrated the level of dissatisfaction with the president's policy.
"It was a recognition that the American people were demanding" an end to the war, Pelosi said. "I think the president's policy is beginning to unravel now."
President Bush is expected to sign the funding bill this afternoon.
Democratic leaders cited reports of discontent with the president among moderate Republicans and vowed to renew their fight to end the war when debate on military funding for fiscal year 2008 begins this fall. And Pelosi called benchmarks on Iraqi progress a "small step in the direction of accountability" on the war.
In a separate news conference, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pointed out that the benchmarks appearing in the final bill mirror those first introduced last week by Sen. John Warner, R-Va. and downplayed suggestions that such benchmarks were the result of pressure from Democrats.
The benchmarks "would have likely been part of such a measure if I had 51 (votes) and Sen. (Harry) Reid had 49," said McConnell, R-Ky.
The minimum wage increase, which was inserted into the supplemental funding bill during negotiations with the White House, was among the Democrats' main campaign pledges in the run up to last year's elections. Rep. Rahm Emmanuel, D-Ill., said he was proud that Democrats were able to get the increase enacted into law just five months after taking over control of Congress.
The federal minimum wage will increase from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour over the next two years.
"Our proudest moment will be when people receive an increase in the minimum wage," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chair of the Democratic caucus.
One of the most prominent anti-war members in the House, Rep. Dennis Kucinich,
D-Ohio, ealier this week criticized the inclusion of the minimum wage increase with war funding. He said it was unfair to conflate help to working Americans with support of continued conflict in Iraq, as RAW STORY reported this week.
"First blood for oil. Now a minimum wage for maximum blood," Kucinich said in a speech on the House floor Tuesday."Aren't the American people giving enough blood for this war without having to give more to have a wage increase?"