President eyes push for $9 minimum wage

President Obama might soon renew his push for a $9 minimum wage, a top economic adviser said on Monday.

“You’ll certainly be hearing more about it,” Jason Furman, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, told reporters Monday at a Wall Street Journal event.

Liberals in Congress have been stepping up their pressure on the White House to seek a hike in the minimum wage, which they argue would provide immediate economic stimulus while combatting income inequality. 

Obama urged lawmakers during January’s State of the Union address to boost the wage from $7.25 to $9 per hour and index it so that it rises with inflation.

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But there is strong resistance in Congress to raising the wage. Furman said the White House is realistic about the chances of passing it soon. 
 
“This has always been a little bit of a marathon, every time you’ve proposed it,” he said. 

Senate Democrats last week announced plans to take up a minimum wage bill this month

S. 460, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour over two years.

Furman also said Obama will be taking a hands-off approach to the new congressional budget negotiations, which are seeking a deal by Dec. 15 to avoid another government shutdown in January.

“People know where we are coming from and it is now over there in the conference committee. People know what we would like them to do,” Furman said. 

The first formal House-Senate budget conference committee since 2009 began on Wednesday, and is aiming at a minimum to resolve the $91 billion difference in the House and Senate budgets for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Signs emerged immediately of trouble over the issue of whether tax revenue increases are needed for a deal.
 
Furman noted that Obama has proposed a plan to replace nine years of sequester cuts and to reduce the deficit in the medium term using a mixture tax increases and entitlement cuts. 
 
“Revenue and spending together are really important to the president and they have been consistently important to the president,” he said. 
 
Last week, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew emphasized replacing sequester cuts with targeted savings while scarcely mentioning the tax code. 
 
Furman repeatedly declined to take a hard line on what Congress should do now, but said the president wants to see upfront stimulus, and will not support a deal that replaces the current automatic sequester cuts with something “just as bad or worse.” 
 
“There is a political and economic no-brainer to be had here,” he said. “Whether people have enough brains to snap that up is more of an open question.”
 
Furman made the case that “ideally” the individual and corporate tax codes could be overhauled, but said the White House sees far more growth benefits from simplifying the corporate code and lowering rates. 
 
He urged members of Congress to take the politically treacherous step of outlining the “math” of how they would eliminate tax breaks to lower rates, saying it would be “better for the world” if the plans were scored by the Joint Committee on Taxation.

—This story was last updated at 12:52 p.m.