President Obama’s call for a minimum wage increase in Tuesday’s State of the Union address — like nearly all of his proposals — was met with immediate opposition from Congressional Republicans. But six years ago, many of the same Republicans supported a similar proposal backed by Republican President George W. Bush.
A ThinkProgress analysis finds that at least 67 Republicans who are still in Congress today backed an increase in the minimum wage in some form, including Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).
Political momentum for an increase began in 2004, after President Bush announced his support for a bill by now-Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). After Democrats won majorities of the House and Senate in the 2006 elections, a minimum wage increase became one of their first priorities. The Fair Minimum Wage Act — which also included tax cuts for small businesses — passed the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. When the increase was folded into a larger appropriations bill, it again passed with strong bipartisan support and was eventually signed into law by Bush. 26 House Republicans even signed a letter to then-House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), asking for a vote on a minimum wage increase, including current Representatives Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Peter King (R-NY), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Christopher Smith (R-NJ), and Fred Upton (R-MI). In incremental stages, the law raised the minimum wage from $5.15-per-hour to $7.25.
Though Ryan ultimately voted against the measure, he argued that he supported raising the hourly rate as long as it came with a suitable “offset” of small business relief. “Last year, I supported an increase in the minimum wage because it also included tax relief measures for employers to offset the cost of the proposed minimum wage increase,” he noted in a floor speech, as he announced “with great regret” that he could not back the bill without more small business tax cuts.
Like most Republicans, however, Ryan struck a far more defiant tone in response to Obama’s proposal, dispensing of any caveats and telling CNN that “I think it actually is counterproductive in many ways. You end up costing jobs from people who are at the bottom rung of the economic ladder.”
In addition to the letter-signers, those voting for the 2007 increase also included current Members of Congress:
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)Sen. John Boozman (R-AR)Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID)Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL)Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS)Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) Sen. John Thune (R-SD) Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA) Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL)Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL) Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL)Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA) Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC)Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX) Rep. Candace Miller (R-MI)Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX)Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY)Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID)Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH)Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR)Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY)Rep. Frank Wolf (R-KY) Rep. Don Young (R-AK)Rep. Bill Young (R-FL)
The minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009. Adjusted for inflation, the real hourly minimum has dropped 33 centers per hour already, since that year.