Obama weighing executive action on minimum wage hike

President Obama is considering using his executive authority to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors, he told Senate Democrats during a closed meeting at the White House.

Lawmakers present at the Wednesday night session said Thursday that Obama did not bring up the matter himself, but appeared receptive to the idea when questioned on the topic.

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“The issue was raised,” Sen. Barbra Boxer (D-Calif.) said Thursday. “He said he was looking at it, as he looks at everything else.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who was also in attendance, offered a similar account and said he has heard from members of the president’s staff that he is seriously considering executive action on the measure.

Obama and congressional Democrats are pushing for an across-the-board hike in the minimum hourly wage, from $7.25 to $10.10. But Republicans are cool to the plan, warning it could hurt the economy.

Federal contractors represent only a fraction of the nation’s employees. Businesses that together received more than $446 billion in federal contracts employ some 2 million workers, only some of whom are paid the minimum wage.

Still, an increase for that segment of the workforce could generate momentum toward a raise for all workers now paid the lowest amount allowable by law.

Proponents of the plan say Obama need not wait for Congress to pass legislation. Sanders and Boxer were among 15 senators who sent a letter to Obama in September, urging him to set a minimum-wage preference for private companies doing business with the federal government.

An executive order to that effect would be tantamount to setting a minimum wage for federal contractors, they said.

“Profitable corporations that receive lucrative contracts from the federal government should pay all of their workers a decent wage,” the lawmakers wrote.

Obama in recent days has vowed to make 2014 "a year of action," even if it means relying heavily on administrative authority to pursue policy goals in lieu of congressional action.