>Ensign Joins Minimum Wage Increase Stall Ball Game

>”Do you have such disdain for hard-working Americans that you want to pile all your amendments on this? Why don’t you just hold your amendments until other pieces of legislation? Why this volume of amendments on just the issue to try and raise the minimum wage?” Senator Edward Kennedy [C&L] [BGg]

Nevada Senator John Ensign (R-NV) evidently shares some of that disdain with his ultra-conservative colleagues. As Blue Lyon pointed out, Ensign was among the few, the dubious, and the dead wrong, to vote in favor of the Allard Amendment that would have abolished the Federal minimum wage. [Amdt 116 to Amdt 100 to H.R. 2, roll call 24] [DB] However, that wasn’t all Nevada’s junior Senator tried to do. Ensign’s been on board with all the amendments piled on by the Republican leadership in the Senate.

He joined their bandwagon on the DeMint Amendment (158) to increase the Federal minimum wage based on applicable State minimum wages. This one went down to a worse defeat than the previous amendment proposal — 18-76. [Roll Call 25] A reasonable person could conclude this really was a bad idea if the Republican leadership in the Senate could dragoon only 18 votes in favor of it. It was. In summary, in those states that use the current Federal minimum wage the increase would be a “wonderful” 70 cents, then $1.40, and finally two years from now the full $2.10. [LOC] {text amendment January 23, 2007; page CR-S962}

Then Senator Ensign piled on with an amendment of his own, No. 154. Failing to outright defeat the increase in the minimum wage, and then to delay it for two years; Ensign sought to attach the minimum wage increase to small business health care coverage. Ensign’s marginally relevant amendment called for including, “…a high deductible health plan, other than a group health plan (as defined in section 5000(b)(1))” [LOC] This back door attempt to include the GOP’s highly questionable small business health care associations in the minimum wage bill fell 47-48. [Roll Call 26]

Batter up? Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning struck out with his amendment to alter the minimum wage bill by including a repeal of the 1993 income tax provisions on Social Security benefits. This, too, was rejected, by a 42-51 vote. [Roll Call 28] This might be expected since Bunning’s batting average for 17 seasons in the Majors was .167 — a Hall of Fame pitcher, but no heavy hitter. [BStat]

The Kyl Amendment (no. 148) fundamentally said that if the Democrats wanted to give American workers an increase in the minimum wage, then restaurant corporations should be give special treatment for depreciation on their books. It was tabled on Roll Call 32 50 to 42.

Even accepting that the Senate is the “saucer that cools the legislative process” — the current hundred + possible amendments to H.R. 2 (Minimum Wage Bill) seem a bit excessive if the GOP is, as it claims, in favor of raising wages for American workers.

How many of these amendments, in addition to the one already rejected, come from the office of junior Senator John Ensign? Most of Senator Ensign’s amendments (listed below)* pertain to insuring that “illegal” workers who pay into the Social Security system are not eligible for benefits. The “Totalization Agreement” is a reference to the International Social Security Agreements that coordinate protection across national boundaries. The U.S. has such agreements with most European countries, and most recently with South Korea, Chile, Australia, and Japan. [SSA] It should be of interest that with the notable exceptions of Chile and Canada, the U.S. has not reached a Totalization Agreement with any other country in the Western Hemisphere.

*Ensign’s additions:
No. 149 – precludes Social Security credits prior to enumeration to anyone assigned an SSN after the date of enactment.
No. 150 – transmittal and approval of totalization agreements
No. 151 – attach a proposal for high deductible health plans
No. 152 – preclusion of Social Security credits prior to enumeration
No. 153 – an additional amendment concerning totalization agreements, their transmittal, adoption, and oversight

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