President Barack Obama supports an effort by congressional Democrats to raise the federal minimum wage to about $10 an hour, higher than the rate he called for earlier this year, according to a White House official.
Proposals from House and Senate Democrats would boost the rate to $10.10 over two years, up from the current $7.25 an hour and more than the $9 proposed by Obama in his February State of the Union speech. The president backs the increase as a way to help working families, according to the official, who described Obama’s support yesterday on condition of not being identified.
While Democrats, who control the Senate, overwhelmingly favor the change, it stands little chance of passing in the Republican-led House of Representatives, said Democratic Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois. That’s because House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, opposes such efforts, he said.
“It’s going to that same room, that little dark room, where Boehner puts all of the bipartisan measures out of the Senate,” Durbin told reporters yesterday after a meeting of Senate Democrats. In a politically divided Congress, the House and Senate have refused to take up certain bills approved in the other chamber.
An increase to $10.10 an hour is in measures proposed earlier this year by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Representative George Miller of California, both Democrats. Senate Democrats are packing the legislative calendar this month with bills that appeal to the party’s core supporters, which includes unions, proponents of boosting workers’ hourly pay.
The wage legislation and a bill passed yesterday by the Senate to bar employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation have strong support from the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor group and a top contributor to Democratic Senate campaigns.
Democrats are defending 21 Senate seats in 2014, compared with 14 for Republicans, who need at least a six-seat net pickup to gain a majority in the chamber for the first time in eight years. Labor political action committees have given 87 percent of their $12.1 million in contributions for the 2014 elections to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group that tracks campaign giving.
Max Gleischman, a spokesman for Durbin, said that Democrats attending yesterday’s meeting heard from Jason Furman, Obama’s economic adviser; Larry Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute; John Arensmeyer, chief executive officer of the Small Business Majority; and Adam Looney, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Raising the minimum wage is “an important economic issue” that sends “a message to working families struggling paycheck to paycheck that we can help them,” said Durbin, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat.
The Senate bill is S.460 and the House bill is H.R.1010.