CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., has voted to raise the minimum wage several times in the past, including in 2006, after she and 25 other Republicans sent Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, a letter asking him to schedule a vote on minimum wage legislation.Today, Capito does not specifically support raising the minimum wage, but supports Congress discussing the topic.Legislation now before Congress would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.Last week, Capito said, "As a member of the House of Representatives, I have voted yes several times to raise the minimum wage, and I believe Congress should debate whether the minimum wage should be raised again.
"I welcome this debate and look forward to studying any legislation that is brought to the House floor for consideration," said Capito, who is running in the Republican primary in May for the United States Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who is running for the Democratic nomination for Rockefeller's seat in the May primary, said, "I strongly support raising the minimum wage because West Virginians who work hard in a full-time job should be able to support their family, put food on the table, and pay their mortgage."The Washington-based Economic Policy Institute reports over 190,000 West Virginians would get increased wages if the federal minimum wage is increased.That increase would also increase demands for goods and services, creating 900 jobs and increasing West Virginia's annual "gross domestic product" by $228 million.Rev. Jeff Allen, director of the West Virginia Council of Churches, recently pointed out that if the minimum wage in 1975 was simply adjusted for inflation, it would be $10.73 an hour today.Ralph Nader, a long-time political activist, told the Gazette-Mail Friday, "Capito has voted for the minimum wage in the past, but is very noncommittal now."When I spoke to her office eight or nine months ago, they said she would make a decision within two months, but every time she is asked, she said 'I voted for it in the past and am looking forward to a debate.'"This is a classic case of trying to have it both ways," Nader said.Nick Casey, a Charleston lawyer running for the Democratic nomination for the Congressional seat Capito now holds, also wants Congress to raise the minimum wage."It's past time to raise the minimum wage. We need to support hardworking people who go to work every day and often work multiple part-time jobs to support their families," Casey said. "They want a hand-up, not a hand-out, and Congress needs to act."On Saturday, the state Senate passed the House version of a bill raising the minimum wage in West Virginia. The bill raises the minimum wage by $1.50 over two years --$.75 in 2015 and $.75 in 2016.
Pete Davis, an aide to consumer advocate Ralph Nader at the Center for Study of Responsive Law in Washington, D.C., said, Capito was one of 26 members of Congress who sent a letter to Boehner in July 2006 asking him to increase the minimum wage.Six of them are still in Congress."Yet, all six of those House Republicans, including Rep. Capito," Davis said, "are mum as to whether they still believe that 'nobody working full time should have to live in poverty.'"Hader said, "Capito still won't take a stand on an issue supported by 80 percent of Americans. The Women's Chamber of Commerce is for it. Prices are going up year after year. This would be good for workers and good for business."Two-thirds of all low-income workers are women," Nader said. "When I talked to the president of Costco last year, where wages start at $11.50 an hour plus benefits, he said a higher minimum wage produces more productive workers, less turnover and it is the right thing to do."Reach Paul J. Nyden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5164.