- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2015

They ceded ground in Congress, but Democrats vowed it will not deter them from their call to raise the minimum wage, declaring a $10.10 rate to be the centerpiece of a populist economic agenda designed to stymie the GOP and set the table for a 2016 resurgence.

After pushing unsuccessfully to raise the minimum wage for the past two years, despite having the majority in the Senate, Democrats plan to keep the issue alive by forcing votes that are all but certain to fail and holding campaign-style rallies headlined by President Obama and other party leaders, according to congressional aides.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a liberal star in the Democratic Party, is expected to champion the minimum wage issue when she delivers the keynote speech Wednesday at the AFL-CIO’s “Summit on Raising Wages,” where Labor Secretary Thomas Perez also is scheduled to speak.

Democrats hope that focusing on the minimum wage and other pocketbook issues will galvanize the base that abandoned them in the 2014 midterm elections, giving Republicans a new majority in the Senate and complete control of Congress.

“It’s the kind of issue that Democrats often return to in very bad times,” said David W. Rohde, a political science professor at Duke University. “They are casting around for an issue where they might be able to make some headway, but don’t know that they are gong to have any more success now than they did in the last Congress.”

Democrats insisted that the minimum wage issue will resonate with voters and expose Republicans to criticism for siding with the wealthy and big business against working-class Americans.


SEE ALSO: Obama leaves town as GOP-led Congress moves in


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi outlined the strategy Monday in a letter to her caucus members. She promised to “put forward a legislative package to increase paychecks for working families, and put Americans back to work building the roads and bridges our country needs and paid for by keeping our tax dollars here at home.”

Other bills in the package include the Stop Corporate Expatriation and Invest in America’s Infrastructure Act, which would prevents American corporations from moving headquarters overseas to avoid U.S. taxes, and the CEO/Employee Pay Fairness Act that would deny CEOs tax deductions on income over $1 million unless they give their employees pay raises.

“In all that we do in the Congress, we must keep the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the American people at the forefront,” wrote Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat. “We must all be committed to doing this in a bipartisan way. The New Year and the new Congress gives us a fresh opportunity.”

However, a Democratic aide said that the leadership isn’t interested in negotiating the $10.10 figure in order to win a smaller boost for low-wage earners.

“I think $10.10 is a compromise. I’m not aware of any conversation about changing that,” said the aide.

Mrs. Pelosi has pointed to higher minimum wages that are taking effect in 21 states after ballot initiatives, legislative action or laws that automatically index the rate to inflation as evidence that Democrats have the momentum on their side.

Liberal activists and some lawmakers, including Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats and is eyeing a 2016 run for the party’s presidential nomination, have called for raising the federal minimum wage from its current $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour.

But such a plan to more than double the minimum wage has never been seriously debated in Congress.

Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, has proposed a deal that would raise the minimum wage to as high as $9 per hour.

She said the compromise would benefit low-wage workers, who haven’t seen the minimum wage increase for seven years, while avoiding widespread job loses that a $10.10 rate is expected to inflict on the economy, which has been Republicans’ chief objection to the increase.

A study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office determined that the $10.10 rate could cause the elimination of 500,000 jobs but would provide higher incomes for 16.5 million low-wage workers. An increase to $9 per hour could cost 100,000 jobs but boost pay for 7.6 million workers.

Mr. Obama first called for an increase in the minimum wage to $9 per hour in 2013, before upping it to $10.10 per hour last year to match proposals by congressional Democrats.

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