In his press conference this afternoon, President Bush made headlines by replacing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He also praised the nation's growing economy while signaling a willingness to work with the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives on a variety of issues. Presumptive Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of California has promised to pass a bill that would boost of the minimum wage. A recent proposal sought to increase the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, up from $5.15 an hour, over the next two years. Republicans in Congress attempted unsuccessfully to bundle that bill with a provision that would have repealed the estate tax. Bush, in his news conference today, suggested that the White House was willing to work with Pelosi and Democrats specifically on the minimum wage bill. The last minimum wage increase came in 1997. More than 20 states now have state rates that exceed the federal level, and polls indicate that raising the minimum wage would be popular with voters. (Reuters wraps up Buish's comments here.
The National Federation of Independent Business and other groups that represent very small firms have long opposed an increase in the minimum wage. (Here are their talking points.) In a tightening labor market, however, many fast growing companies do not complain about a wage hike plan, simply because they are already paying all of their workers wages that fall above the federal threshold.