WASHINGTON -- As Republican leaders grudgingly moved toward consideration of a minimum-wage increase yesterday, Vice President Al Gore predicted that Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole "will cave to pressure" and agree to an increase sought by Democrats.
"Mark my words, it will happen in a week or so," Mr. Gore told the annual meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
Until now, Mr. Dole has resisted a change in the minimum wage of $4.25 an hour, even pulling an immigration reform bill from Senate consideration Tuesday to prevent Democrats from attaching a minimum-wage amendment to it.
But after 20 House Republicans came out in support of an increase Wednesday, the Kansas senator and other Republican leaders began to retreat from their hard-line opposition.
On Wednesday evening, Mr. Dole indicated in a television interview that he was "looking at maybe some way we can formulate an increase in the minimum wage" but perhaps do it in a measure that would include elements "that the Democrats might not be so crazy about."
A spokesman for House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Georgia Republican, said Thursday that such elements could include a tax cut or broader work requirements for welfare recipients.
Another possibility might be to include provisions that would anger labor unions, such as ending an administration ban on government contracts for firms that hire permanent replacements during strikes.
If he is confronted with such unpalatable measures, President Clinton might feel compelled to veto the wage increase. He would surely assert that Mr. Dole was seeking to sabotage a hike in minimum pay.
That's what Mr. Gore suggested in his speech yesterday, portraying the presumptive Republican presidential nominee as anti-worker if he resists a minimum-wage change.
"Let's have no games, no poison pills, no tricky conditions with no riders attached," Mr. Gore said.
Mr. Dole does not want to be characterized as aloof from working America, as Mr. Clinton portrayed President George Bush during the 1992 campaign.
The administration wants to increase the minimum wage by 90 cents, to $5.15. Alternatives being considered by some Republicans include at least a 45-cent increase.
Some Republicans remain adamant that an increase would be counterproductive. They include House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who reiterated his opposition yesterday.
"This whole issue is a sham on the part of the Washington union bosses that fund the Democrat Party," the Texas Republican said.
Pub Date: 4/19/96