Wash. Post headline falsely claimed Bush "[s]upports Democrats' " minimum wage proposal

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

A December 21 Washington Post article bore the headline: "Bush Supports Democrats' Minimum Wage Hike Plan," although the article itself, by staff writers Michael A. Fletcher and Jonathan Weisman, made clear that the minimum wage proposal Bush endorsed at his December 20 press conference -- pairing a $2.10 increase with tax cuts -- is not the proposal Democrats favor. CNN's Wolf Blitzer similarly described Bush's minimum wage plan as "an olive branch to Democrats."

The Post reported that "with the Democrats poised to take control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in more than a decade, Bush cited his support of the proposed increase as proof of his intent to operate in a more bipartisan manner during the remaining two years of his presidency." The article noted, however, that Democrats do not support Bush's call to cut taxes in conjunction with raising the minimum wage.

From the December 21 Post article:

Democrats and their supporters in organized labor responded warily to Bush's proposal to link a minimum wage hike to tax breaks for business, saying the increase should be passed on its own merits. Democratic leaders have promised to make increasing the $5.15-per-hour minimum wage one of the first orders of business when the new Congress convenes Jan. 4.

"Minimum wage workers have waited almost 10 long years for an increase -- we need to pass a clean bill giving them the raise they deserve as quickly as possible," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who sponsored legislation to increase the wage that failed in Congress earlier this year.

Democrats have pledged to reinstate budget rules that would require that any tax cut be offset by equivalent tax increases or spending cuts. Some Democrats say they do not want to complicate their effort to raise the minimum wage by linking that issue to business tax breaks, as Bush and many Republicans are insisting. House Democrats will vote early next month on a stand-alone wage increase, leadership aides said.

"Let's be clear, given that nearly a decade has passed since the last minimum wage increase, no one can seriously believe that the proposed increase will harm the small-business sector," said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. "A minimum wage increase should not and need not be conditional on other legislation or policy changes."

Bush's minimum wage proposal is similar to legislation proposed earlier in the year by congressional Republicans that paired a minimum wage increase with a significant cut to the estate tax -- a move Democrats opposed for providing a disproportionate benefit to the wealthiest Americans. The bill died in the Senate on August 3 after Republicans fell four votes shy of the 60 necessary to invoke cloture and force a vote -- three Republicans joined 38 Democrats and Sen. Jim Jeffords, an independent, in opposing the legislation, according to an August 4 New York Times article. As Media Matters noted at the time, media figures such as U.S. News & World Report senior writer Michael Barone baselessly attacked Democratic opposition to the minimum wage/estate tax legislation as evidence of "partisanship," while others, such as Roll Call executive editor Morton M. Kondracke, described the Republican tactic of linking a minimum-wage increase and an estate tax cut as an "obscenity" and a "fraud."

Blitzer described Bush's minimum wage plan as "an olive branch to Democrats," without noting that Bush's proposal was similar to the one previously rejected by a majority of Senate Democrats. From the December 20 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: President Bush offered an olive branch to Democrats today, as they prepare to take control of the U.S. Congress. During his news conference, Mr. Bush said he supports a minimum wage hike, and he's open to compromise over Social Security and immigration reform.

BUSH [video clip]: My message is -- we can work together, and here is some key areas where we've got to work together: reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, minimum wage. I hope we're able to work together on free trade agreements.

On the December 20 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox News chief White House correspondent Bret Baier reported that Bush "said he expects to have success working with Democrats on a host of domestic issues, including immigration reform, energy reform, and a minimum wage hike." Baier's report featured a video clip of Bush's statement from the December 20 press conference: "I believe we should do it in a way that does not punish the millions of small businesses that are creating most of the new jobs in our country," but Baier omitted any mention of Bush's support for, in Bush's words, "pairing it with targeted tax and regulatory relief."

From the December 20 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

BAIER: President Bush said he will work with Congress on his new "way forward in Iraq" and said he expects to have success working with Democrats on a host of domestic issues, including immigration reform, energy reform, and a minimum wage hike -- a point he chose to make in his opening statement.

BUSH: I support the proposed two-dollar-and-10-cent increase in the minimum wage over a two-year period. I believe we should do it in a way that does not punish the millions of small businesses that are creating most of the new jobs in our country.

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