At a campaign-style rally in Connecticut on Wednesday, President Obama pressed his case for Congress to take up his proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.
Obama was joined on stage by Democratic Govs. Dan Malloy (Conn.), Deval Patrick (Mass.), Lincoln Chafee (R.I.) and Peter Shumlin (Vt.). The president jokingly said he would call the group "the New England Patriots," were that moniker not already taken.
The four governors have each joined Obama's call for raising the federal minimum wage, and advocated similar efforts within their states. In Connecticut, lawmakers raised the minimum wage to $9 per hour last year, and Malloy has called for a hike to the $10.10 level proposed by Obama.
Obama told the crowd that the United States should do right by "folks who are doing all the hard jobs that make our society work every single day."
"They're not expecting to get rich, but they do feel like if they're putting in backbreaking work every single day, they should at the end of the month be able to pay their bills," Obama said.
He went on to suggest that Republican lawmakers might only be resisting the legislation because he was the one to propose it.
"This should not be that hard, you'd think, because nearly three-fourths of Americans, about half of all Republicans support raising the minimum wage," he said. "The problem is Republicans in Congress oppose it."
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has criticized the plan as a jobs killer, pointing to a recent CBO report that says raising the minimum wage above $10.10 per hour would eliminate 500,000 jobs.
"We know beyond dispute that raising the minimum wage will destroy jobs for people who need them the most," Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said Wednesday. "When folks are still struggling to find work in this economy, why would we make that any harder?”
But Obama argued that businesses like Costco had succeeded even after paying their employees a higher wage, saying it gave employees more money to pump into the economy.
"It's not bad business to do right by your workers, it's good business," Obama said.
To drive that point home, Obama and the governors made an unannounced stop for lunch at Cafe Beauregard, a Connecticut restaurant that pays its employees more than $10 an hour. Obama, snacking on a Korean beef sandwich and some chili, said he had spoken to the shop's owner, who said he understood that those working hard shouldn't be in poverty.
"This is an important tool for us to help create more pathways into the middle class and make sure that if you work hard in this country you can succeed," Obama said.
Still, House Democrats admitted this week that prospects for the president's proposal were dim with Republican leaders in Congress voicing their opposition to the plan.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who attended the event, said Tuesday her hope "is that we could get some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to join" a discharge petition to force a House vote on the bill. The rare legislative move would require around two dozen Republicans to defect.
Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) said the legislation would pass if it came to a vote and called on Boehner to allow it to proceed.
"The Speaker is not just the Speaker for the House, he's the Speaker for the United States," she said. "He should call this."
Last week, Obama made clear he saw the issue as an electoral advantage during a speech at the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting.
"It is time to give America a raise or elect more Democrats who will do it," Obama said.