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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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. FitzpatrickKoch campaign touts bipartisan group behind ag labor immigration bill Conservative group hits White House with billboard ads: 'What is Trump hiding?' House passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices MORE (Pa.), Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyConservative group hits White House with billboard ads: 'What is Trump hiding?' Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Amash says he will vote in favor of articles of impeachment MORE (Fla.) and Chris SmithChristopher (Chris) Henry SmithGOP lawmaker to offer bill to create universal charitable deduction on 'Giving Tuesday' China threatens 'strong countermeasures' if Congress passes Hong Kong legislation This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington MORE (N.J.) — backed the Democratic bill. Six Democrats — Reps. Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.), Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamVulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment White House makes push for paid family leave and child care reform Democrat says he expects to oppose articles of impeachment against Trump MORE (S.C.), Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornHow centrist Dems learned to stop worrying and love impeachment Democrats, GOP dig in for public phase of impeachment battle House panel advances resolution outlining impeachment inquiry MORE (Okla.), Ben McAdams (Utah), Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderGroup of Democrats floating censure of Trump instead of impeachment: report Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Krystal Ball: New Biden ad is everything that's wrong with Democrats 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 MurphyOn The Money: Fed holds rates steady in end to challenging year | Powell says deal on new NAFTA could settle economic jitters | CEOs' economic outlook drops for seventh straight quarter House panel votes to temporarily repeal SALT deduction cap Blue Dogs issue new call for House leaders to abide by pay-go rule 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 passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — House panel unveils rival fix for surprise medical bills | Democrats punt vote on youth vaping bill | Pelosi drug bill poised for passage after deal with progressives Comey, Schiff to be interviewed by Fox's Chris Wallace MORE (D-Wash.), a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said after the vote. 

ADVERTISEMENT

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 McConnellSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial McConnell: I doubt any GOP senator will vote to impeach Trump McConnell says he'll be in 'total coordination' with White House on impeachment trial strategy 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 ScottDemocratic lawmaker tears into DeVos: You're 'out to destroy public education' Democrats lash out at DeVos over proposed changes to loan forgiveness plan House passes bill that would give legal status to thousands of undocumented farmworkers 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 BurgessHillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomware House passes anti-robocall bill Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul 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 TrumpSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Vulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment Trump appears to set personal record for tweets in a day 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