- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Even with dissension in his own ranks and in the face of a damning report showing the economic damage of a higher minimum wage, President Obama on Wednesday continued to push the issue and made clear it’ll be a political weapon for Democrats heading into the fall midterm elections.

Speaking at a campaign-style rally at Central Connecticut State University, the president mocked Republicans who oppose raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, saying the move is “just common sense.”

“This should not be hard, you’d think. Nearly three in four Americans support raising the minimum wage,” the president said, referring to polling data showing Americans back the idea when asked a generic question about it.

“The problem is that Republicans in Congress oppose raising the minimum wage,” he continued. “Now, I don’t know if that’s just because I proposed it. Maybe I should say I oppose the minimum wage. They’d be for it. It’s possible.”

But some Democrats also aren’t on board. Sen. Mark Pryor, Arkansas Democrat, believes the proposed hike is too much and said that a smaller raise would be better for the economy. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat up for re-election this year, also hasn’t come out in support of the idea.

Democrats also are struggling to explain away a recent Congressional Budget Office report showing as many as 500,000 Americans could be pushed out of the workforce if the wage is raised to $10.10.

Despite that, the White House and its allies in Congress won’t budge. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has said he won’t entertain a smaller increase.

Late last month, Mr. Reid delayed a planned vote on the measure.

Some analysts say Mr. Obama’s and Democrats’ insistence on the $10.10 figure — and an apparent unwillingness to negotiate and possibly settle on a smaller increase — is, at its core, a political tactic.

“At the end of the day, I think it’s more proof they don’t have an interest in passing this thing. They just have an interest in messaging on it this year. They my be able to peel some people off [to support] a dollar increase in the minimum wage. But they don’t want to do that. They want to keep it around,” said Michael Saltsman, research director at the Employment Policies Institute, a nonprofit economic think tank.

While the CBO brought with it some bad news for supporters of a minimum-wage hike, it also contained bright spots for the president and his allies.

The report found that raising the rate to $10.10 would bring about 900,000 families out of poverty, and Mr. Obama is relying on that narrative to sell the idea to the American people.

“Nobody who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty. That violated a basic sense of who we are,” the president said. “That’s why it’s time to give America a raise. Now is the time.”

Even as Mr. Obama spoke, leading Republicans fired back by touting the CBO report.

“There are some inconvenient facts that the White House doesn’t like to acknowledge. That’s because, in short, this plan is a job killer,” said Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

Mr. Obama already has taken executive action to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for all federal contractors. He’s also pushing states to hike their rates.

The fact that he gave Wednesday’s speech in Connecticut, for example, was no coincidence. Under Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, the state raised its minimum wage to $8.70 this year.

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