Minimum wage increase thrown into jeopardy Dole's exit from Senate leaves vote call uncertain

June 16, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- An increase in the federal minimum wage, which seemed to be heading toward passage as recently as last month, has been thrown into jeopardy with the departure of Bob Dole from the Senate, say senior Clinton administration officials.

Dole, the Republican leader before he left the Senate to focus on his presidential campaign, opposed the Democrats' proposal to increase the minimum wage to $5.15 an hour from $4.25, but in late May he said he would be willing to move ahead with a vote.

The House approved the proposal 281-144 on May 23, and if the measure had been brought to the Senate floor, it would almost certainly have been passed and signed into law by President Clinton. It would be the first increase in the minimum wage in six years.

But Dole never scheduled a vote. Now the bill's fate in the Senate rests with Mississippi's Trent Lott, the new majority leader, who is an even bigger foe of the minimum wage increase than Dole.

Lott said Wednesday that he was not sure when a vote on the minimum wage would come. But his top deputy in the new Republican hierarchy has voiced strong opposition to the measure, saying it would cost jobs. "I'm still not in favor of it," Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma, the new majority whip, said in an interview Thursday.

The Senate's top Democrat, Tom Daschle of South Dakota, has vowed to bottle up the Senate until it approves the wage increase. "We will again be offering minimum wage to every bill that comes before the Senate unless we have a guarantee or the assurance that this matter is resolved successfully," Daschle said Thursday.

Lott and Daschle met Friday to discuss the minimum wage, health-care insurance and other legislation, but they did not resolve their differences, aides said.

Pub Date: 6/16/96

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