By Jonathan E. Kaplan - 07/12/06 12:00 AM EDT
Facing a tough reelection campaign, Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) yesterday signed on to a discharge petition to force a vote on legislation that would raise the minimum wage.
It is highly unusual for Republicans to sign discharge petitions. House Republican leaders have repeatedly told their members not to sign them.
Shays is the only GOP member to sign the petition.
While Republicans have resisted efforts to raise the minimum wage over the past decade, Democrats hope to use the issue to put Republicans on the defensive in some key races and have said they would pass an increase if they retake the House.
The Democratic bill would allow a vote on a bill that calls for a phased-in implementation of a $2.10 increase in the minimum wage.
The petition, circulated by Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.), has 191 signatures. To force a vote, the petition would need 218 signatures. Barrow is also facing a challenging reelection race.
Sarah Moore, Shays’s spokeswoman, stated Shays has consistently supported increasing the minimum wage.
Shays casts himself as a centrist Republican and has at times broken ranks with Republican leaders — most notably on campaign-finance reform. Democrats say that Shays has been an ardent supporter of the war in Iraq, noting that the congressman has admitted he should have conducted more oversight of the war.
Shays is in a tight race against Democrat Diane Farrell, who narrowly lost to him two years ago.
“We still have a Republican majority in the House that Chris Shays supports,” a spokesman for Farrell said. “Until there is a change in leadership and some set of checks and balances, Republicans will continue to run the show no matter what Chris Shays does.”
A pending appropriations bill on labor and health spending has language that would increase the minimum wage, but GOP leaders have not brought the measure to the floor. Lawmakers and aides say that House leaders lack the votes to kill the minimum-wage provision, though it is unlikely to be signed into law this year in the face of resistance from congressional leaders and the White House.