Obama to congressional GOP: Time to lift wages

President Obama told the nation Saturday that some Republicans in Congress want to get rid of the minimum wage, drawing a clear contrast with the GOP ahead of the elections. 

Obama delivered the remarks in his weekly address as part of a broader effort to build popular support for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, which has virtually no chance of passing Congress this year.

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Democrats have latched onto the populist issue to save their Senate majority in the face of strong political headwinds created by the unpopular Affordable Care Act.

“About half of all Republicans support raising the minimum wage, too. It’s just too bad they don’t serve in Congress,” Obama said. 

“Because the Republicans who do serve in Congress don’t want to vote on the minimum wage at all. Some even want to get rid of it completely. Seriously,” he added. 

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in December showed that 63 percent of the public favors raising the minimum wage to $10.10. The survey found 47 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Tea Party supporters endorsed the $10.10 wage floor.

Obama emphasized the minimum wage increase would increase earnings for 28 million people across the country.

The federal minimum wage now stands at $7.25 an hour, a sum earned by about five percent of the national workforce.

Boosting it to $10.10 an hour would affect more than 21 percent of workers and help raise nearly 1 million people out of poverty. 

“The American people are way ahead of Congress on this issue, and we’ve just got to let Congress know that. It’s time for ‘ten-ten,’” Obama said. “It’s time to give America a raise.  And it’s time to restore opportunity for all.”

The president highlighted a trip he took this week to New Britain, Conn., to meet with four New England governors advocating minimum wage increases in their states, including Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat.  

“It would give nearly 800,000 Americans in their states a raise — and lift wages for about 28 million across the country,” he said. “So these governors aren’t waiting for Congress to make up its mind.” 

Congressional Republicans, however, point to a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office estimating that boosting the minimum wage to over $10 could cost as many as 500,000 jobs.

Obama’s three other gubernatorial allies in the minimum wage battle are Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Masschusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, all Democrats.

Obama noted that major companies such as Costco and Gap, Inc., as well as some small businesses have gone ahead and raised their employees’ wages. 

He touted Jaxson’s, a family-owned ice cream parlor in Florida, for raising the pay of its 70 employees to $10.10 an hour without cutting back on hiring.

“I agree with these business owners, which is why I issued an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour,” he said. “It’s good for our bottom line.  And working Americans have struggled through stagnant wages for far too long.”