White House sidesteps talk of raising minimum wage with executive order

The White House on Friday sidestepped questions about whether President Obama would use executive action to raise the minimum wage for workers employed through federal government contracts with private companies, despite pressure from some congressional Democrats.

White House press secretary Jay Carney, asked about the possibility, said that "Congress ought to act" to raise the minimum wage "as soon as possible."

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But pressed on whether Obama would act if Congress failed to strike an agreement, Carney said that "broadly speaking" Obama was "always looking for ways to move the ball forward where Congress won't work with him."

Still, Carney insisted he wouldn't "speculate about a hypothetical" executive action, worried that it would distract focus from legislation that would raise minimum wage across the board.

"He thinks there is the opportunity, given the history here, given, you know, the interest that has been expressed by some Republicans in getting this done, to do it and to demonstrate to the American people that we here in Washington can take action," Carney said.

On Wednesday, Obama said it was "well past the time to raise a minimum wage that in real terms right now is below where it was when Harry Truman was in office."

"I’m going to keep pushing until we get a higher minimum wage for hard-working Americans across the entire country," he added. "It will be good for our economy. It will be good for our families."

That prompted Democrats, including Minnesota Reps. Keith Ellison and Rick Nolan, to urge Obama to sign an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors.

"In this Congress I think we're going to have to look at what the executive can do, and doing something with these contractors who pay people substandard pay is something we could do right away," Ellison told MSNBC.

A poll released last month from Gallup showed more than three-quarters of Americans — including 58 percent of Republicans — would back raising the federal minimum wage to $9. Senate Democrats and the White House have proposed a $10.10 hourly rate.