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Will Congress Intervene In D.C. Fight With Walmart Over A Living Wage?

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Will Congress intervene in a fight between Walmart and the D.C. Council?
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Will Congress intervene in a fight between Walmart and the D.C. Council?

The D.C. Council's living wage bill was the story of the week, but there are still a couple of hurdles before it can become a law.

On Wednesday the Council voted to approve a bill that would require that certain big box retailers pay employees a living wage of $12.50 an hour. After the vote, Walmart, a target of the bill, axed three of its six planned stores for D.C.

Mayor Vince Gray has until next week to sign or veto the bill. Though he hinted that he didn't much like the bill when it was being debated, he hasn't definitively said whether he'll wield his veto pen or not. But even if he doesn't, the bill still has to head to Capitol Hill for the usual 30-day congressional review; per the 1973 Home Rule Charter, every law passed by local legislators must be reviewed by Congress.

That, of course, raises an interesting question: Would Congress intervene and try and scuttle the D.C. Council's attempt to impose a living wage on Walmart? CQ's David Hawkins, speaking on WAMU 88.5 News this morning, says it's possible.

"I think there is a chance. There's some rumbling already that there's some Republicans getting ready to write some legislation to somehow block this," he says.

Still, Hawkins concedes, such a move wouldn't get very far. Disapproval resolutions of that type are relatively rare—only 43 were introduced in the House or Senate between 1975 and 2000, for one. Additionally, with Democratic Senate and a Democratic president, a House Republican attempt wouldn't move very far.

There is another possibility, he says.

"What's would be more likely is that they'll do what they've done in the past on medical marijuana and needle exchanges and other social policies, which is that the Republicans will try and write one-year language into a spending bill that would prohibit this from happening," he says.

A federal spending bill including $636 million for D.C. will be debated by the House Appropriations Committee soon, and it already includes provisions limiting the use of funds for medical marijuana, needle exchange and abortions.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton's office says that it hasn't heard of any specific threats from Republicans to move against the living wage bill. Even if one arises, it might be for naught—NBC Washington's Tom Sherwood reports that Gray will veto the bill.

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