House OKs minimum wage hike, Senate chances dim

Daniel Fowler
July 19, 2019

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, but the legislation is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate. It's meant to address income inequality that's driving the 2020 political debate. Reluctant to embrace the party's left flank, they pushed for changes, including a slower six-year phase-in of the wage.

Blue Dogs might also keep in mind that the bulk of this $16.3 billion decline, including the disappearing $8.7 billion, would come primarily from their constituents.

Four years ago, @KeithEllison and I rallied with low wage workers for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

"This is a historic day", Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said, according to the New York Times. Lifting a young girl into her arms, Pelosi said, "This is what it's all about". There are more people looking for work than there are jobs available.

When fast food workers began widely protesting in 2012 for higher pay, a $15 minimum wage appeared overly ambitious. It's now $2.13, in what labor scholars call a jarring remnant from the legacy of slavery, when newly freed workers received only tips.

Republicans balked at the wage hike, saying it would cost jobs. Just three Republicans joined most Democrats in passage, on a 231-199 vote.

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Rep. Mike Johnson (R., La.), who chairs the budget-focused Republican Study Committee, echoed the criticism of the bill by leadership. But since then, some cities and states have raised their local minimum wages to $15 an hour on their own - including Seattle, San Francisco, New York City and then all of California and New York State. It also said between 1 million and 3 million jobs could be lost.

"We need to make certain that wages keep pace with the cost of living and with the value of the labor that our people contribute into the economy", Hoyer said on the House floor.

But swift passage earlier this year ran into trouble when centrists and those Democrats from rural regions and Southern states raised concerns. Those same freshmen will face some of the toughest reelection races in 2020. Democrats rallied together to pass the legislation despite recent conflict between members of their caucus.

"I've always been one to believe compromise is not a dirty word", Murphy said in an interview. They also held the line against a Republican alternative.

So, Democrats from the solidly blue states of California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and NY, and the cities of Washington, D.C. and Seattle face no political risks from supporting a $15 federal minimum wage. At the $7.25 rate, a 40 hour a week worker would make about $15,000.

"Even if there's a little adverse effect on unemployment, the increase in the minimum wage will overwhelm that problem", said Scott. "Once you start raising workers' wages it's hard to go back".

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