[UPDATED with video below.]
Via the daily HuffPost Hill newsletter comes word that Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele couldn't say what the minimum wage is in an interview that aired Tuesday night.
"The Last Word" host Lawrence O'Donnell challenged Steele to defend Alaska Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller's assertion that the minimum wage is unconstitutional, according to a rush transcript blasted out by MSNBC and reproduced below. "I had a minimum wage job once, and I had trouble living on that," O'Donnell said when Steele tried to deflect the line of questioning.
Then he asked Steele to tell him what the minimum wage is. For the record, the federal minimum is $7.25.
"Whether the minimum wage is $7 or $10 or whatever it happens to be in whatever part of the country you live in, the fact is if you don't have a job, that number is irrelevant until you get one," Steele protested. "That'll be your headline: 'Steele doesn't know what the minimum wage is.'"
That, at least, he got pretty much right.
Read the rush transcript below:
ON THE MINIMUM WAGE:
O'DONNELL: Now you've said that the Republican Party and the Tea Party are 'locked hand-in-hand'--that's your phrase--and you have a Republican nominee for Senate in Alaska who says the minimum wage is unconstitutional. So is that now your position, Republican Party position, that the minimum wage is unconstitutional?
Steele: [Laughing] What I meant by that phrase is I think around the issues that we're fighting over this November and the debate that the nation has had about jobs and the economy, we are working together, we have a common interest and a common goal to put a fiscal discipline in place. Every candidate comes to the table with their own particular set of issues that they want to speak to the people of their state or their district about--that's what they're allowed to do. It doesn't necessarily translate that that's the position of every Republican in the United States. I know a lot of folks on the left in particular want to make that leap of faith for them but the truth is, it doesn't translate that way. The reality of it is that the Tea Party is an organic movement out there of citizens who are concerned about the direction that the nation is going. Republicans of all stripes are also concerned, so I wanted to make it very clear that with respect to those common interests on those issues, let's work together and let's move forward together to defeat what we think is an aggressive agenda by government to take over big businesses and the affairs of individuals.
O'Donnell: So Michael, do you want to make a Republican Party commitment to minimum wage workers that you absolutely will not consider repealing or reducing the minimum wage?
Steele: Nice try, Lawrence. I don't do policy, I do political, so you need to talk to our legislative leadership and ask them what their position is going to be on the minimum wage.
O'Donnell: So do you think it's a good idea? Do you think it's good politics to reduce the minimum wage?
Steele: It doesn't matter to me what I think. What matters is that the effort that we put on the ground to help our candidates win this November--they are taking their messages directly to the people, the people are responding, and they'll get the final say on November 2 at the ballot box.
O'Donnell: By the way, what is the minimum wage?
Steele: [Laughing] You really like the minimum wage, don't you? I want to talk about a lot more things beside one issue Lawrence.
O'Donnell: I had a minimum wage job once, and I had trouble living on that.
Steele: Look, the country's hemorrhaging jobs right now.
O'Donnell: It's ok to say you don't know. If you don't care about the minimum wage, it's ok to say you don't know what it is.
Steele: Look Lawrence, stop the trap playing here. The reality of it is--that is not the most paramount issue that voters out there are facing. When you've lost your job, whether you know what the minimum wage is or not is not relevant, you're trying to get a job back. And that's the debate the nation has been engaged in for over the last year. That's the reality that people are facing right now every single day. The administration has failed to create jobs--close to 3 millions jobs have been lost. And this canard that we have saved or created x number of jobs is a joke. The reality of it is that the unemployment rate in this nation is 9.7%. The reality is that a significant number of people here in California and across the nation are looking for jobs. So the debate that candidates need to have with the people of this country and amongst themselves is what are we going to do to stimulate job growth, what are we going to do to empower small business owners? And that's the nature of the debate. Whether the minimum wage is $7 or $10 or whatever it happens to be in whatever part of the country you live in, the fact is if you don't have a job, that number is irrelevant until you get one.
O'Donnell: Well, the minimum wage is not $7 or $10, but let's move on to jobs.
Steele: That'll be your headline: "Steele doesn't know what the minimum wage is."
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