Washington, D.C. With little fanfare, Congress on Thursday approved the first increase in the federal minimum wage in nearly a decade, voting to boost wages for America's lowest-paid workers from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour during the next two years.
The bill, which a spokesman for President Bush said he would sign, would end the longest stretch without an increase in the federal minimum wage since it was established in 1938. It would also mark a victory for congressional Democrats, becoming the first item to be enacted from an eight-point agenda that House leaders vowed to pursue during their first 100 hours in power.
During the past decade, inflation has depleted the value of the minimum wage to its lowest level in more than 50 years. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have set higher minimum wages.