Obama will keep up minimum wage push

 

President Obama will continue his push for a minimum wage increase on Wednesday even as the Democratic-led Senate is poised to vote down his proposal raising the rate to $10.10 per hour.

The speech — the first event for the president after a week-long trip to Asia — comes as the legislation to increase the current $7.25 rate faces long odds of passage. Democrats would need total party discipline, and would also need to win over at least five Republican lawmakers.

ADVERTISEMENT
That scenario appeared increasingly unlikely on Tuesday, with centrist Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) indicating that she would not support the bill.

"It's obvious the votes aren't there for $10.10," she told The Associated Press. "It seems clear to me that politics is trumping concern for low-income workers."

If the Senate is unable to advance the legislation, the president seems likely to seize on GOP obstruction as the White House looks to home in on its economic messaging ahead of the midterm elections.

Obama has aggressively championed the minimum wage effort in recent months, traveling to Michigan and Connecticut to promote the initiative.

"You can give America the shaft or you can give it a raise," Obama said during the speech on the University of Michigan campus earlier this month.

"Politically, you would think people would rush to do this," Obama said. "Nearly 3 in 4 Americans support raising the minimum wage."

The president has also visited businesses, including a deli, Gap clothing store and Costco warehouse, where employers pay their workers above the minimum wage. And in January, the president announced he was signing an executive order forcing federal contractors to pay their employees at least $10.10 per hour.

The White House hopes these efforts will give Democrats traction as they seek to draw contrast with Republican lawmakers over the economy — still the top issue reported by most voters — heading into a difficult midterm environment where his party is fighting to keep the Senate. 

In a speech at The George Washington University on Monday, Vice President Biden previewed that effort with a blistering attack on the budget offered by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

"The middle class has been through enough," Biden said. "It's time for the budget to give them a fair shot, and the Republican budget does not. I believe ours does."

Biden framed his speech as "basically our first comment on the debate that will be ensuing over the next several months into the election," an indication of the renewed focus the White House plans to place on economic issues.