by Jonathan Singer, Wed Dec 20, 2006 at 02:10:04 PM EST
The storyline for the first session of the 110th Congress is already beginning to emerge: A contrite George W. Bush lays out a "compromise" -- on Social Security, immigration, etc. -- and the spirit of bipartisanship should compel the Democrats to accept it, if not outright at least as a jumping off point. Continuing in this vein, the President is now laying out a "deal" on the minimum wage, as Jennifer Loven reports for the AP.
President Bush endorsed one of the Democrats' top priorities for the new Congress, a $2.10-an-hour minimum wage increase -- and on a faster timetable than they have proposed.
But his support comes with a catch.
Bush said at a Wednesday news conference that any pay hike should be accompanied by tax and regulatory relief for small businesses, potentially a tough sell for Democrats, who are about to reassume control of the House and Senate.
I don't mean to sound glib or cynical (or repetitious, for that matter), but it's imperative that the Democrats remain impervious to entreaties by the Bush White House -- at least when they're not good faith deals. This is not to say that Democratic leaders in Congress should not follow through with their pledge to open up the process in the Capitol and allow the minority to play a role in crafting policy. Yet at the same time, if the Democrats have the votes to pass a necessary and, frankly, highly popular piece of legislation like increasing the minimum wage, then they should do so with or without Republican support. If this means that the bill will not be enacted into law in the first pass because the President is so foolish and bull-headed that he would veto it, so be it. While the country needs an increase in the minimum wage -- and I do not mean to downplay this need at all -- at the same time we cannot afford to indulge the President's desire to appease his highly partisan and ideological base for politics' sake.
It could be that a miminum wage increase, on it's own, does not have the votes to get through the Senate today. I haven't whipped the bill or canvassed the chamber, so I truly don't know. But if it's the case that 41 Senate Republicans are willing to filibuster a miminum wage increase, a move that commands the support of between three-quarters and seven-eighths of Americans (according to surveys detailed at PollingReport.com), then they're going to be in for a world of trouble come 2008 -- particularly those like Susan Collins, Gordon Smith, Norm Coleman, Wayne Allard, and John Sununu, who will (or might be) running for reelection in states trending more and more blue.
My hunch is that there are enough votes to pass a minimum wage increase, and other popular planks in the Democratic platform, through both the House and the Senate -- though not enough, necessarily, to override a Bush veto. In this case, the Democrats should chart their own course by passing their own stand-alone bills, thus forcing President Bush (and consequently the entire Republican Party) to look bad in the eyes of voters or alternatively to back down. Either way, the Democrats win by sticking together and sticking to their guns rather than caving into the false bipartisanship favored by some elites.