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Friday, 28 July 2006 05:40

How Republicans Use "Poison Pills" to Avoid a Minimum Wage Vote

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With control of Congress, Republicans have the luxury of simply scrapping bills they don't want to vote on, but sometimes they have to be more creative. That's where "poison pills" come in.

Poison pills are amendments attached to larger bills for the sole purpose of making them unpassable without actually killing them. Yesterday, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the head Democrat on the Education and Workforce Committee, released a report on how the GOP has used a "poison pill parade" to prevent an up-or-down vote on an increase in minimum wage (.PDF).

Poison pills generally water down a proposal to make it less effective. Republican amendments have attempted to reduce or delay the minimum wage increase, remove significant numbers of workers from coverage, add tax cuts for the wealthy, and cut overtime pay.

Sometimes, however, poison pills will be completely unrelated to the matter at hand. Last month, Senate Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) attached an anti-abortion amendment to Ted Kennedy's (D-MA) minimum wage bill in the hopes that Democrats would drop the matter.

Because the minimum wage increase is so popular among the public and supported by many moderate Republicans, GOP leaders have been forced to resort to such measures to avoid embarrassing votes ahead of the elections. Last month we reported on a vote on an entire appropriations bill being suspended after a minimum wage amendment was attached in committee.

With all the frivolous votes on conservative "values" like the ones on flag burning and gay marriage that had no chance of even passing, it's unfortunate that Republicans have gone to so much trouble trying to avoid a real debate and vote on such an important issue.

UPDATE: Sure enough, House Republicans have just announced that they could allow a vote as early as today on a minimum wage increase, but it's attached to a bill rolling back estate taxes for multimillionaires. Can anyone say Poison Pill?