March 8, 2005 -- Efforts to attach minimum-wage increase proposals to legislation designed to overhaul the nation's bankruptcy law were defeated in the Senate on Monday. The proposals would have raised the $5.15-an-hour minimum wage, which has remained unchanged since 1997.
The Democratic amendment, proposed by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., proposed to increase the wage by $2.10 over the next 26 months, phased in as three 70-cent increases. The Republican proposal, offered by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., proposed a smaller increase, $1.10, which would be phased in over 18 months in two 55-cent increments. Santorum's proposal also included tax breaks for small businesses and offered workers the ability to create more flexible work schedules, which, according to some opponents, would help employers avoid paying overtime. Both proposals, however, fell well short of the needed 60 votes to pass: 46 votes for and 49 against for the Democratic amendment, and 38 for and 61 against for the Republican.
Bankruptcy law reform has been a long fought battle for the GOP, and Senate Republicans were adamant about keeping the minimum-wage increase amendment off the legislation to help ensure speedy approval by House GOP leadership. The bankruptcy bill, if passed, would force debtors to pass a "means test," thereby proving their inability to pay back at least part of what they owed.
Even though Republicans have been pushing bankruptcy reform for the last eight years, the minimum wage hasn't received an increase in the same amount of time, while prices have inched up steadily since 1997.