Erick Conley, left, and Sesilia Vaitele, wheelchair attendants at SeaTac airport, October 22, 2013, where voters are considering raising the minimum wage to $15/hour.
Elaine Thompson/AP

Putting the minimum wage back in the spotlight

Updated
It’s been nearly eight months, but President Obama’s State of the Union address pushed for, among other things, an increase in the minimum wage to $9 an hour. Obama went on to argue, “[H]ere’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.”
 
The proposal caused a bit of a stir – the public overwhelmingly endorsed the president’s idea – before petering out in the face of near-unanimous opposition from congressional Republicans. Indeed, in the wake of Obama’s appeal, some GOP lawmakers, including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) not only balked at a minimum-wage increase, but also argued that the minimum wage shouldn’t exist at all.
 
But away from Capitol Hill, the issue hasn’t gone away. In New Jersey, for example, Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed a minimum-wage increase approved by the state legislature, but voters overrode Christie yesterday, easily approving a ballot measure that will “take the minimum hourly wage to $8.25 on Jan. 1 and then step it up annually to keep pace with inflation.”
 
What’s more, as my colleague Tricia McKinney reminded me, Democrats and union members in South Dakota have put a minimum-wage increase on the statewide ballot for next year. The measure would increase the state’s minimum “from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour, and it would include annual cost-of-living increases.”
 
Even in D.C., proponents recognize Republican opposition, but haven’t given up the fight.
“You’ll certainly be hearing more about it,” Jason Furman, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, told reporters Monday at a Wall Street Journal event.
 
Liberals in Congress have been stepping up their pressure on the White House to seek a hike in the minimum wage, which they argue would provide immediate economic stimulus while combatting income inequality. … Senate Democrats last week announced plans to take up a minimum wage bill this month.
 
S. 460, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour over two years.
It’s an uphill fight, to be sure, but it’ll be worth watching as proponents of an increase fight to keep the issue politically relevant. What’s more, should House Democrats reclaim their majority a year from now, expect this to be a leading issue in the next Congress.
 
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Minimum Wage

Putting the minimum wage back in the spotlight

Updated