Braley pushes for wage hike

U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley renewed his call for increasing the federal minimum wage and defended his work on behalf of Iowa veterans during a Tuesday visit to Fort Dodge.

The Democrat from Waterloo said raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would lift many people out of poverty.

And during an interview, the United States Senate candidate said he’s proud to stand on his record of helping former service members, despite criticism of his attendance record at House Veterans Affairs Committee meetings.

Braley faces state Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, in the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat.

He and Harkin have introduced bills to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour.

”I believe strongly that no Iowan working full-time 40 hours a week should be living below the poverty level,” he said. ”Many people would be lifted out of poverty if the minimum wage bill was passed and that’s why I strongly support it.”

”My opponent in this election, on the other hand, doesn’t believe that we need a federal minimum wage and she believes that $7.25 an hour is fine for Iowans,” he added. ”That works out to about $15,000 a year and I strongly disagree that that’s an appropriate level for the minimum wage. It’s just one of many examples where her Tea Party ideas are wrong for Iowa.”

Representatives of Ernst’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening.

According to Braley, increasing the minimum wage would give 300,000 Iowans a raise. More than half of them, he said, are older than 25.

”That dispels one of the myths, which is that these are all teenagers,” he said. ”They’re not. And increasingly we’re seeing people supplementing their retirement income, their Social Security income, by working part-time in minimum wage jobs.”

Increasing the minimum wage would put more money into the hands of people who would spend it in their communities, he said. He added that higher payroll tax collections created by the increase would generate $5.5 billion for the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.

Allies of Ernst have attacked Braley by claiming that he missed more than 70 percent of the meetings of the House Veterans Affairs Committee when he was a member of that panel in 2011 and 2012.

During the interview with The Messenger, he did not directly respond to the claims that he was absent so often.

”I think Iowa voters are going to judge me on what I’ve done for veterans,” he said. ”I have worked tirelessly and gotten results for Iowa veterans from the moment that I started serving in Congress.”

”People who know my record know of my record of fierce commitment to making lives better for Iowa veterans,” he added.

Braley said he’s done these things for veterans:

  • Secured GI Bill benefits and back pay for members of the Iowa Army National Guard who served the longest deployment to Iraq.
  • Authored a law giving federal assistance to help make the homes of disabled veterans handicapped accessible.
  • Passed legislation providing tax credits to businesses that hire unemployed veterans.
  • Helped more than 400 veterans with disability claims.

Braley talked with The Messenger before a Tuesday evening fundraiser at the Fort Dodge home of Neven and Jill Mulholland.