Democrats in Congress have set a new target for a higher minimum wage: $12 an hour, in increments, by 2020 — and the proposal seems to be gaining fast acceptance within the Party.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, the top Democrat on the Senate committee that deals with labor issues, plans to introduce a bill to increase the minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 to $12 by 2020, reports the New York Times.
The chances of such a bill passing the Republican-controlled Congress is slim to none. But it’s introduction is a clear signal that Democrats are rallying stronger than ever around a higher minimum wage, an issue that will likely take center stage during the presidential elections under the broader issue of income inequality.
Senator Murray’s pending bill, and a companion proposal by Representative Robert C. Scott in the House, have wide support within the party, the Times reports, citing congressional aides. Among the up to 20 Democrats who already back the effort in the Senate are Harry Reid of Nevada, the current Democratic leader, and Charles E. Schumer of New York, his chosen successor.
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton has already set the stage for one of her central campaign themes: championing the middle class and working Americans struggling to get ahead. “Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top,” Clinton said in her presidential announcement video. Clinton also has a record of supporting minimum-wage increases.
Republicans in a Tough Spot
Meanwhile, support among Republicans for a minimum wage increase is weak, presenting a problem for the GOP presidential contenders who are also expected to raise income inequality as a major issue. To counter the negative repercussion from opposing the lifting of the wage floor for millions of Americans, Republicans and pro-business groups have focused on the potential job losses that could arise from minimum-wage increases.
However, numerous economic studies indicate that moderate increases in the minimum wage would cause little or no job losses. An gradual move to $12 an hour over the next few years would actually restore the minimum wage to its purchasing power in the late 1960s, Jared Bernstein, who served as economic adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., tells the Times.