Clyburn predicts no wage hike before elections

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Republican opposition to a minimum wage hike will likely prevent passage of an increase before the midterm elections, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) predicted Monday.

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President Obama and other Democratic leaders are hoping public pressure on the Republicans will compel Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to vote on a wage hike ahead of November's elections. But Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat, said GOP leaders don't see a political downside to ignoring the issue.

"The fact of the matter is we've been at $7.25 now for, what, 10 years? It's time for us to do something about that," Clyburn said Monday in an interview with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program. "Now, will it happen before the elections? I don't think so."

Pressed on the question, Clyburn said the GOP doesn’t feel political pressure to act.

"I don't think that the Republicans feel that they will pay a price if they don't," he said.

As part of their economic agenda, House Democrats in February introduced a discharge petition designed to force a House vote on their proposal to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. It was one of three such petitions designed both to promote the Democrats' policy priorities and distinguish them from the Republicans. The other two petitions are focused on bills extending emergency unemployment benefits and overhauling the nation's immigration system.

Supporters of the wage hike, including most Democrats, argue that it will put more money into the pockets of low-income consumers, thereby benefiting the economy on the whole. Critics, including most Republicans, warn that the added expense for businesses will cripple new hires amid the ongoing jobs crisis that's followed the Great Recession.

The critics found ammunition in a recent Congressional Budget Office report which estimated the increase to $10.10 would eliminate 500,000 jobs. Democrats have rejected that figure, countering with other economic reports indicating the wage hike would stimulate hiring.

Public opinion polls indicate that voters support a hike in the minimum wage, which Congress has not increased since 2007.

Hoping to apply additional pressure on Boehner and the Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is eyeing an upper-chamber vote on the wage hike as early as this week, although GOP opposition to the $10.10 level in the Senate gives him long odds of moving that proposal without some Republican amendments.

Taking yet another tack, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has made the minimum wage hike a central tenet of the Democrats' push to expand economic opportunities for women, who would benefit disproportionately from such an increase.

Pelosi, who was Speaker the last time the wage was raised, said recently that she's still hopeful the public pressure campaign will yield results.

"I believe they will be taking it up sometime soon in the Senate, and I hope that we can do so in the House," she said this month. "And that's why we have a discharge petition to that effect."