The House, ignoring the almost certain prospect of a veto by President Bush, voted to raise the minimum wage from the current $3.35 per hour to $4.55 over three years.
The Democrat-sponsored bill was approved Thursday on a near party-line vote of 247-172 and sent to the Senate where approval is expected next week.Utah Rep. Wayne Owens voted for the bill. Reps. Jim Hansen and Howard Nielson voted against.
The two chambers had voted previously for similar bills boosting the wage. A conference committee worked out minor differences and sent the bill back for final approval.
Bush has pledged to veto any bill that raises the minimum wage beyond $4.25 an hour and is not coupled with a lower training wage that could be paid to new hires for their first six months on the job. The training wage would be 85 percent of the current minimum wage.
Democrats tried to win the president's support by adding a 60-day training wage, but the administration refused to accept the plan.
Both sides acknowledged that backers of the bill do not have the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto, and it is expected a new bill will be drafted after the veto. The fall-back position may propose raising the minimum to $4.25 over two years rather than three.
"You know it will be vetoed. I know it will be vetoed," said Rep. William Goodling, R-Pa., leading the opposition to the Democrats' bill. "You know it (the veto) will be sustained."
Democrats stressed how close their bill is to Bush's $4.25 proposal.
"The difference between what we propose and what President Bush will accept is three thin dimes," House Speaker Jim Wright, said.