[JURIST] The US Congress passed the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 Thursday, raising the federal minimum wage for the first time in almost a decade. The provision was introduced as an amendment to the Iraq War Supplemental Budget [HR 2006 summary], and will raise the current minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $5.85 an hour within 60 days of enactment and to $7.25 an hour within two years of enactment. The provision, and the Iraq war spending bill, passed the Senate 80-14 and the House 280-142. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) [official website] called the raise "long overdue" and criticized Republicans for preventing previous minimum wage bills from passing earlier this year by joining measures that would give tax breaks to businesses. The White House voiced support for the increase, but spokesperson Tony Fratto said that we would "very much prefer that it be paired with appropriate offsets for small businesses who would be disproportionately impacted by the minimum-wage increase." A $4.9 billion tax package also passed along with the minimum wage bill.
The National Restaurant Association (NRA) [official website], which represents an industry that employs approximately 12.8 million workers in 935,000 locations, issued a statement [text] Thursday criticizing the minimum wage increase, saying that it "will cost our industry jobs... [and] that the current $4.9 billion tax package" would not provide sufficient relief for employers most impacted. The NRA claims that the industry "lost more than 146,000 jobs" and delayed the employment of 106,000 new employees as a result of the 40-cent minimum wage increase in 1997. AP has more.