House Democrats voted to more than double the federal minimum wage Thursday, passing the first increase such in 10 years on a 231-199 vote, largely along party lines.
Democrats hailed the vote but it stands virtually no chance of becoming law in the face of opposition from the Republican-controlled Senate and President Trump.
“Today the federal minimum wage is a poverty wage in every region of our nation,” Rep. Bobby Scott, Virginia Democrat, said before the vote.
The bill would increase the federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour, to $15 per hour by 2025, and analyze the need for possible increases after that point.
It also gradually phases out the much-lesser permitted minimum wages for tipped workers and workers under the age of 18.
An amendment, pushed by more moderate Democrats, was added Thursday that would also require the Government Accountability Office to issue a report on the impacts of a minimum-wage increase on various types of wages after the first two increases — to $8.40 in 2019 and $9.50 in 2020 — go into effect. This would allow the government to pass any necessary adjustments at that time.
Democrats hailed the bill as a counterpoint to the 2017 GOP tax bill, which they slammed as a break for the top earners in the country.
“This is direct — not indirect, not trickle-down. Direct. Saying to some of the people who worked the hardest and could make the least, we’re going to help,” said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.
The vote coincided with the 171st anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights convention in U.S. history — which Democrats said symbolized the impact of their bill in the push for equal pay.
“Giving nearly 20 million working women, that is nearly 1/3 of all working women, a raise and it helps narrow the gender wage gap that disproportionally targets women of color,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “Today, we wake up for a day of jubilation because of the sense of fairness this legislation engenders.”
Republicans, however, said that the drastic increase would hurt the U.S. economy, especially small business, and cost millions of jobs by artificially raising the price of labor.
A report from the Congressional Budget Office, which tallies the price tag and economic impacts for legislation, did find that Democrats’ plan could put as many as 3.7 million people out of work. However, it would also raise the wages for up to 27 million workers and bring about 1.3 million people out of poverty, which Democrats said made it a win.
Republicans argued that the Democrat’s plan also overlooked the complexities of raising the minimum wage and doesn’t acknowledge the different needs that various regions have.
“Those hurt the most by this bill would be female workers, young workers and those with less than a high school diploma,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx, North Carolina Republican. “Mandating a one-size-fits-all wage hike will cause job losses and harm entry level workers in many regions of the country.”
Indeed, 29 states and numerous municipalities, including such high-cost cities as San Francisco and New York, have minimum wages higher than the federal one.
Several more moderate Democrats attempted to push through a regional approach to raising the minimum wage that would allow for a diverse increase, but it didn’t gain steam with the majority of the party.
Rep. Terri Sewell, the Alabama Democrat pushing a regional approach, said earlier this week that she stood with the rest of the party.
“We as Democrats stand united on giving a raise to the American people,” Ms. Sewell told reporters. “At the end of the day, we as Democrats promised the people a raise and this is the only vehicle moving.”
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