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By Richard Rubin August 28, 2008

The Democrats counted correctly

Team Obama has been trolling through John McCain's voting record in the Senate, and this nugget landed in vice presidential candidate Joe Biden's Aug. 27, 2008, convention speech: "He voted 19 times against the minimum wage for people who are struggling just to make it to the next day." (We'll give Biden a pass for skipping the word "raising," which was in his prepared remarks.)

We combed through McCain's minimum wage votes and found that not all of 19 in opposition to increases were pure votes on the minimum wage, and some were procedural, as is the Senate's way. But McCain has voted repeatedly, 19 times, against Democratic attempts to raise the minimum wage.

Most recently, McCain voted against a spending bill in March 2007 that included the wage hike. Earlier that year, he voted against stopping debate on a stand-alone wage-hike bill, which in Senate parlance is equivalent to voting no.

Let's put an important caveat on this issue, however. McCain has often voted for minimum-wage increases. In 2007, he voted for passage of a bill that would have raised the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25, after it was packaged with business tax breaks designed to soften the blow of the wage increase.

And a few months later, he voted for the final version of the bill that made that wage hike into law. It was packaged in a large spending bill with war funding that did not include a goal for withdrawing troops from Iraq, unlike the earlier bill that he voted against. To show how confusing Senate votes can get, Barack Obama voted against the final spending bill and wage hike because of the Iraq policy. Biden was one of 37 Democrats to vote for the bill.

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McCain has also voted for Republican-sponsored minimum-wage proposals that would have meant smaller increases than what the Democrats wanted. For instance, on June 21, 2006, he voted against an amendment from Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy that would eventually have raised the minimum wage to $7.25. But on the same day, McCain voted for an amendment from Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi that would have raised the wage to $6.25. That sort of conflicting, confusing pile of votes is just the nature of the Senate.

McCain has said he opposes Obama's proposal to raise the minimum wage and index it for inflation, telling a business group in June that it and other Obama proposals are "a sure way to add to your costs and to slow the creation of new jobs."

Let's look at the big picture. Generally, on minimum-wage issues, McCain has been in the middle of the Senate Republicans. He's not one of the few GOP members who regularly vote for Democratic proposals. But he also wasn't one of the three conservatives who voted against the 2007 wage hike, even after the tax breaks were added.

Biden, however, never made any claim about McCain's votes for minimum-wage bills or his overall record. All he said was that McCain cast 19 votes against raising the minimum wage, and that's True.

Our Sources

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 126, March 29, 2007. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 23, Jan. 24, 2007. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 179, June 21, 2006. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 257, Oct. 19, 2005. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 26, March 7, 2005. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 76, April 7, 2000. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 239, July 30, 1999. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 94, April 28, 1999. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 278, Sept. 22, 1998. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 186, July 9, 1996. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 184, July 9, 1996. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 58, March 28, 1996. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 519, Oct. 27, 1995. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 344, July 31, 1995. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 68, May 17, 1989. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 39, April 12, 1989. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 29, April 11, 1989. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

Roll call votes 335 and 336 from 1988 are not available on the U.S. Senate Web site, but were checked in the CQ Almanac

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 181, May 24, 2007. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 42, Feb., 1 2007. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

U.S. Senate, Roll call vote 180, June 21, 2006. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

Joe Biden prepared remarks, speech to the Democratic National Convention, Aug. 27, 2008. Accessed on Aug. 28, 2008

E-mail exchange with Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro

Obama Senate office press release, "Obama Votes to Demand Changed Course in Iraq," May 24, 2007; accessed Aug. 28, 2008

McCain opposes Obama's proposal to raise the minimum wage and index it for inflation, telling a business group in June that it and other Obama proposals are "a sure way to add to your costs and to slow the creation of new jobs," John McCain campaign Web site, Remarks by John McCain at the NFIB and eBay 2008 National Small Business Summit, June 10, 2008

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