A coalition of national business groups is urging Congress to remove a provision to raise the federal minimum wage from the disputed Iraq war spending bill.
President Bush on Tuesday vetoed the spending bill, which contained a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. He also repeated his pledge to veto any legislation that included a timetable for troop withdrawal.
The provision also includes $4.8 billion in tax cuts for small businesses aimed at offsetting the wage increase, among other measures.
Democratic lawmakers are expected to present a second Iraq spending bill within the next few weeks, which is likely to include the wage hike and small-business tax break package.
If approved, the minimum wage hike would be the first in a decade.
Officials from the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Restaurant Association, and the National Retail Federation are pressing lawmakers to consider the wage hike and tax break package as a standalone bill. They also called for additional tax breaks to offset added payroll costs for smaller employers.
"There is no reason this issue should be tied to a massive war spending bill," the group said in a joint statement on Thursday. "Congressional leaders shouldn't muddy the waters and confuse the issues surrounding the minimum wage by adding it to a controversial war bill."
Rep. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), who introduced an earlier version of the minimum-wage bill that was later rejected, has defended its inclusion in the Iraq spending bill, saying a fair minimum wage reflects the values for which U.S. troops are fighting.
"Americans believe that hard work should help you build a better life for your family. They believe that a job should keep you out of poverty, not force you to live in poverty," Kennedy said this week.
The current provision would raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over the next two years and includes $4.8 billion in tax breaks. Democrats made the wage hike a legislative priority after taking control of the Congress last year.