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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. FitzpatrickLawmakers urge IRS to get stimulus payments to domestic violence survivors Hopes for DC, Puerto Rico statehood rise Florida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum MORE (Pa.), Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Environmentalists sound alarm over Barrett's climate change comments |  Energy regulators signal support for carbon pricing in electricity markets| Methane emissions up in 2020 amid turbulent year for oil and gas Calls for COVID-19 tests at Capitol grow after Trump tests positive The Hill's Convention Report: Democrats gear up for Day Two of convention MORE (Fla.) and Chris SmithChristopher (Chris) Henry SmithWoman tased, arrested for trespassing for not wearing mask at Ohio football game China sanctioning Rubio, Cruz in retaliatory move over Hong Kong China sanctions Cruz, Rubio, others over Xinjiang legislation MORE (N.J.) — backed the Democratic bill. Six Democrats — Reps. Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.), Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamDemocrats see Green New Deal yielding gains despite GOP attacks Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test Chamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch MORE (S.C.), Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornBiden's oil stance jars Democrats in tough races Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' Energized by polls, House Democrats push deeper into GOP territory MORE (Okla.), Ben McAdams (Utah), Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderHouse members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes The 14 Democrats who broke with their party on coronavirus relief vote House votes to condemn Trump Medicaid block grant policy 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 scramble on COVID-19 relief amid division, Trump surprise Bank lobbying group launches ad backing Collins reelection bid House Democrats call on State Department for information on Uighur prisoner Ekpar Asat 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 JayapalHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Ocasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair 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 McConnellMcConnell: Battle for Senate 'a 50-50 proposition' 'Packing' federal courts is already a serious problem What a Biden administration should look like 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 ScottHouse committee subpoenas Education Department staff over for-profit colleges Democrats demand answers from Labor Department on CDC recommendations for meatpacking plant Pelosi urges early voting to counter GOP's high court gambit: 'There has to be a price to pay' MORE (D-Va.), chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee and lead sponsor of the bill. 

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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 BurgessRace heats up for top GOP post on powerful Energy and Commerce Committee Hillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it 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 John TrumpHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Police called after Florida moms refuse to wear face masks at school board meeting about mask policy Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline 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