Levin: Senate should vote to raise the minimum wage

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Friday that he wants the Senate to debate and pass legislation to raise the federal minimum wage when lawmakers return on April 28.

“When the Senate returns to Washington in late April, we should debate and pass legislation to raise the minimum wage,” Levin said said. “It is indisputable that increasing the minimum wage would reduce poverty.”

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he wants to take up a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour and index further increases to inflation. But Reid has first set up several votes on executive and judicial nominees for when the Senate returns from a two-week Easter recess on April 28.

There has been some division among Democrats on the issue — particularly vulnerable Democrats up for reelection in November. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is working on a bipartisan alternative that would raise the minimum wage to $9 — something the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says won’t be as harmful to job creation.

Liberal Democrats, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who authored the $10.10 an hour bill, say they picked that number because that would actually bring people working full-time for minimum wage out of poverty.

“We can and must raise the minimum wage,” Levin said. “Empirical evidence supports it, and fairness demands it.”

Some Republicans argue that raising the minimum wage would harm small businesses and economic growth, but Levin said this argument has prevailed the last couple years and that the public is worse off.

“These opponents seem wedded to a policy of tax cuts for the wealthy, reduced protections for workers and consumers and reduced protection for the environment as the answer to any and all economic problems,” Levin said. “This dogma has, for the last 30 years, dominated much of our country’s economic policy. But who can persuasively argue that working families are better off for it?”