Dem leader Pelosi backs $15 minimum wage

Dem leader Pelosi backs $15 minimum wage
© Francis Rivera

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is throwing her weight behind the $15 minimum wage, joining a growing chorus of liberals on and off Capitol Hill who support more than doubling the current $7.25 rate.

The move aligns Pelosi with Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders: GOP blocked 'Trump proposal' to lower drug prices Pentagon's suppressed waste report only tip of the inefficient machine Weather Channel strikes back at Breitbart MORE (I-Vt.) and the most liberal members of her left-leaning caucus but sets her apart from other top Democrats, including President Obama — who is endorsing a $12 level — and Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonFederal, state courts at odds on Michigan recount Denzel Washington blasts media for selling 'BS' Trump opening act questions Clinton's popular vote lead MORE, who supports a wage hike but hasn’t named a figure.

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Pelosi’s endorsement is also something of a departure from an earlier strategy by Democratic leaders to unify around a lesser rate. In April, top Democrats — including Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidLawmakers haggle over funding bill as shutdown nears Overnight Tech: Big win for Samsung over Apple | Trump to sit down with tech leaders | Trump claims credit for B investment deal Overnight Energy: Senate Dems set to fight water bill MORE (Nev.) and Labor Secretary Thomas PerezThomas E. PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE — had rallied behind legislation hiking the wage to $12 per hour.

But since then, liberals in both chambers — including Sanders, a 2016 presidential hopeful, and the leaders of the Progressive Caucus — have introduced legislation pushing the rate to the $15 level by 2020.

Additionally, a number of local governments, including in Pelosi’s hometown of San Francisco, have moved to adopt that figure.

Amid the building momentum, Pelosi said Tuesday morning that she supports the higher national standard, even while suggesting it’s a long shot in a Republican-led Congress.

“Twelve dollars may be what can pass, but I’m for $15 per hour,” Pelosi said as she headed into the weekly Democratic Caucus meeting in the Capitol, according to her office.

Her statement came the same day The Hill ran a story highlighting the diverging views of leading Democrats on the target figure for the minimum wage, an issue they’ve long championed.

From a practical standpoint, Pelosi’s endorsement will likely change little on Capitol Hill. Republican leaders oppose any hike in the minimum wage and control both chambers.

But in terms of messaging, her support for the $15 rate further highlights the stark differences between the parties when it comes to the government’s role in dealing with wage stagnation. It’s a message the Democrats are hoping to take into the long August recess.

“Folks here are AWOL on the Republican side on helping American workers,” Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraHouse Dems to perform election autopsy Sanders vs. Trump: The battle of the bully pulpit Dems choose their top member for powerful tax panel MORE (Calif.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Tuesday. “We’re talking about making it a living wage.”

Pressed on whether Democrats are agreed on a wage level, Becerra said, “Many of us — locally at least — are going to continue to push very hard for a $15 minimum wage.”

Pelosi’s support for the $15 figure also puts pressure on other leading Democrats, including Obama and Clinton, to embrace a benchmark that’s quickly catching on with the party’s liberal base.

Betsey Stevenson, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said Tuesday that Obama’s position on the minimum wage — which has shifted from $9 to $10.10 to $12 during his presidency — remains unchanged. She did not specifically address the question of the $15 rate.

“The White House has been pretty clear that we support raising the minimum wage for the nation. … We haven’t shifted our position on that,” Stevenson told reporters on a conference call.

Clinton, meanwhile, has endorsed New York’s recent push to adopt the $15 rate for fast food workers, but has not said how high she’d like to raise the federal rate. 

The silence has not been overlooked by Sanders, who has repeatedly trumpeted his support for the dramatic wage hike in an effort to draw distinctions between his economic policies and those of Clinton.

Jordan Fabian contributed.