U.S. moves closer to minimum wage hike

House votes for a $2.10 US increase, the first since 1997

The United States House of Representatives voted on Jan. 10 to increase the federal minimum wage to $7.25 US an hour. The vote could lead to the first increase in 10 years.

The vote was 315-116, with more than 80 Republicans joining Democrats, who have controlled the House since the mid-term elections in November, to pass it.

"You should not be relegated to poverty if you work hard and play by the rules," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

The measure, which now goes to the Senate, would raise the federal wage floor by $2.10 from $5.15 an hour in three steps over 26 months.

The Senate is expected to move quickly on a similar bill. Business groups and some Republican law makers, however, hope they will be able to get some business-friendly provisions into the Senate package.

The last increase was in 1997, when then-president Bill Clinton prodded the GOP-controlled Congress to enact the raise. In the past year, the House has passed two previous minimum wage increase bills, neither of which made it through the Republican-controlled Senate. However, since the elections in November, Democrats now hold the balance of power in the Senate as well.

The White House issued a statement opposing the current bill because it "fails to provide relief to small businesses."

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