Minimum wage makes ugly cameo in markup of transportation bill

 

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and panel member Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) got into an ugly altercation over the federal minimum wage at the end of an otherwise sedate markup of the 2015 transportation and housing spending bill on Wednesday.

The end result: the panel’s Republicans rejected DeLauro’s amendment to raise the wage to $10.10 per hour and then voted to approve the $52 billion transportation, housing and urban development bill, clearing it for floor action likely next month.

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Rogers was steamed that DeLauro only informed him midway through the markup that she would force a roll call vote on the lightning-hot issue of the minimum wage.

“To offer this amendment at this last minute without notice to anybody is abhorrent,” Rogers thundered.

The chairman denied DeLauro’s request to deliver a closing statement on the measure before ordering the clerk to count votes.

"Mr. Chairman, I have not been given the opportunity to close. That has never happened in the history of this committee," DeLauro said.

The tally was 22 to 27 on what she insisted was "not a partisan amendment."

Democrats have been pushing a discharge petition to try to force the full House to vote on Rep. George Miller’s (D-Calif.) minimum wage bill all year.

Polls show raising the wage would be a popular decision, but businesses argue it would cost jobs at a time when the economy is struggling. In addition, in the past, minimum wage increases have been paired with other provisions favored by employers.

“This amendment would bring this bill to a halt, were it to be adopted,” transportation and housing subcommittee Chairman Tom Latham (R-Iowa) noted in urging a "no" vote.

Prior to the confrontation, the committee on party lines defeated several Democratic attempts to increase funding to rail safety, Amtrak, TIGER infrastructure grants and community block grants.

Latham noted that the bill suffered from decreased revenue from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) so cuts had to be made.

The bill cuts $1.8 billion in spending compared to this fiscal year, in part because of less offsetting revenue from the FHFA due to a weak housing market.