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House approves bill raising minimum wage to $15 per hour

House approves bill raising minimum wage to $15 per hour
© Greg Nash

The House on Thursday approved legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 in a 231-199 vote that cut largely along party lines. 

The legislation represented a long-evolving compromise between liberal and centrist Democrats who were initially at odds over how large the wage hike would be, how long it would take to phase it, and whether it would rise at the same level across the country or allow for regional flexibilities. 

Liberals won the battle for enacting a wage hike to $15 across the country, while centrists succeeded in lengthening the phase-in period from five to six years. The legislation also includes an amendment favored by centrists requiring that the economic impact be studied as the early stages of the wage hike is implemented.

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A report from the Congressional Budget Office projected the hike would lift 1.3 million people out of poverty, but that it would also cost the U.S. 1.3 million jobs by 2024. Those figures provided plenty of ammunition for both supporters and opponents of the bill, who cherrypicked the projections that backed their various arguments. 

Three Republicans — Reps. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickGrowing number of GOP lawmakers say they support impeachment GOP lawmakers introduce resolution to censure Trump over Capitol riot Kinzinger says he'll vote to impeach Trump MORE (Pa.), Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyGrowing number of House Republicans warm to proxy voting Lawmakers express concern about lack of young people in federal workforce The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Today: Vaccine distribution starts, Electoral College meets. MORE (Fla.) and Chris SmithChristopher (Chris) Henry SmithDemocrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? Woman tased, arrested for trespassing for not wearing mask at Ohio football game China sanctioning Rubio, Cruz in retaliatory move over Hong Kong MORE (N.J.) — backed the Democratic bill. Six Democrats — Reps. Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.), Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamWe lost in November — we're proud we didn't take corporate PAC money Chamber of Commerce slams GOP effort to challenge Biden's win Coalition of 7 conservative House Republicans says they won't challenge election results MORE (S.C.), Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornThe US's investment in AI is lagging, we have a chance to double it What should Biden do with NASA and the Artemis Program? Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year MORE (Okla.), Ben McAdams (Utah), Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderWhy are millions still flowing into the presidential inauguration? Democrats poised to impeach Trump again Five centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote MORE (Ore.) and Xochitl Torres Small (N.M.) — voted no. 

The Democratic defections would have been much more numerous — perhaps threatening the bill — without the last-minute amendments favored by the centrists. Those additions were the result of a series of meetings, led by Rep. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyDemocrats seize on GOP donor fallout Lobbying world Newspaper editorial board apologizes for endorsing Republican over support for Texas lawsuit MORE (D-Fla.), a co-chair of the centrist Blue Dogs, which stretched back to May and were aimed at securing the backing of more moderates. 

Liberal Democrats were not enthused about those changes, but accepted them as a condition of getting the bill passed with a large show of support. 

“Raising the minimum wage isn’t just an economic justice issue; it’s a women’s issue and a racial justice issue,” Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history Rep. Adriano Espaillat tests positive for COVID-19 Overnight Health Care: Trump admin makes changes to speed vaccinations | CDC to order negative tests for international travelers | More lawmakers test positive after Capitol siege MORE (D-Wash.), a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said after the vote. 

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In passing the bill, House Democrats made good on one of the central promises of the 2018 campaign. The proposal has little chance of moving through the Republican-controlled Senate, but it empowers Democrats to highlight the contrast between the parties’ economic priorities heading into the 2020 elections.

Democrats are expected to criticize Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham calls on Schumer to hold vote to dismiss article of impeachment against Trump Rove: Chances of conviction rise if Giuliani represents Trump in Senate impeachment trial Boebert communications director resigns amid Capitol riot: report MORE (R-Ky.) for creating a legislation graveyard for the minimum wage hike and other bills approved by the Democratic House.

Thursday’s vote marked the first time that the House has moved to hike the minimum wage since 2007, when it was raised to $7.25 per hour starting in 2009.

Supporters of the wage hike said it will help not only struggling workers, but also the larger communities in which they live. 

"When we put money in the pockets of workers, they will spend that money in their local economies," said Rep. Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottDeLauro wins Steering Committee vote for Appropriations chair National reading, math tests postponed to 2022 amid coronavirus surge Trump officials approve Georgia plan to remove healthcare.gov as enrollment option MORE (D-Va.), chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee and lead sponsor of the bill. 

Different local communities have raised their own minimum wages since the last federal hike, but some lawmakers lamented that their districts hadn’t seen a spike in the wage for more than a decade.

“Milwaukeeans are stuck at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour set over a decade ago,” said Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), who represents the city. "These workers struggle to support themselves and their families with their meager wages. And however hard they try, at $7.25 an hour they are working themselves into poverty.”

Republicans opposed to the wage hike noted estimates on the number of jobs that could be lost with such a wage increase.

“This legislation would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, a 107 percent increase over the current rate of $7.25 an hour,” Rep. Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce MORE (R-Texas) said during debate. 

“An increase of this magnitude could harm American businesses, could harm American consumers, and certainly will harm American workers. The legislation does not consider the labor market, it disincentives job growth, and has the potential to leave nearly 4 million workers unemployed.”

Raising the minimum wage is one of the policy issues Democrats want to highlight ahead of the 2020 elections, though the fight this week was largely overshadowed by the storm surrounding President TrumpDonald TrumpIran convicts American businessman on spying charge: report DC, state capitals see few issues, heavy security amid protest worries Pardon-seekers have paid Trump allies tens of thousands to lobby president: NYT MORE’s attacks on four minority congresswomen.

Those attacks led to a House vote condemning Trump’s remarks as racist as well as another vote on whether to consider articles of impeachment against Trump from Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), with that measure failing.

Updated: 3:15 

– Mike Lillis contributed