House passes $15 minimum wage bill, but its prospects are dim in Senate
Friday, July 19, 2019
On July 18, the majority-Democratic House of Representatives passed the Raise the Wage Act to gradually increase the federal minimum wage, now at $7.25 and unchanged since 2009, to $15 in 2025. Some Republican House members did cross party lines to vote to increase the federal minimum wage.
"This critical policy would lift wages for more than 33 million workers, 90% of them age 20 or older and 58% of them women," according to Heidi Shierholz, a senior economist and the director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute.
"It would increase the total annual wages of these low-wage workers by $92.5 billion, boosting annual earnings for the average affected year-round worker by $2,800. It would reduce inequality and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, pull 1.3 million people out of poverty, nearly half of them children."
The head of the National Federation of Independent Business took a sour view of the RTWA. Juanita D. Duggan is NFIB’s president and CEO.
“The House dealt a devastating blow to small businesses today, risking record growth, job creation, and already increasing wages,” she said in a statement. "In states and municipalities across the country, a mandated minimum wage hike has consistently led to lost jobs, production, and income, and it must not be replicated on the federal level. NFIB members from dozens of states were on Capitol Hill this week sharing their concerns over this costly legislation, and we urge members of the United States Senate to heed their call and prevent this bill from moving forward."
On July 8, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report that opponents and proponents of the RTWA cite. According to this report, "There is a two-thirds chance that the change in employment would be between about zero and a decrease of 3.7 million workers."
Yet, Business for a Fair Minimum Wage supports increasing the federal minimum wage. One member of this coalition is Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce.
"Raising the minimum wage to $15 will be a win-win for businesses and workers," she said in a statement. "It will help small businesses like my members by putting more money in the pockets of customers — boosting consumer demand and job creation."
According to Dorfman, the businesses that do pay low wages, such as the current $7.25 federal minimum, "may save on immediate payroll, but they experience the significant expense of higher turnover, low morale and a less productive workforce."
What are the prospects for the Senate approving the Raise the Wage Act? We turn to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
"Research shows that hiking the minimum wage to $15 would kill jobs and depress the economy at a time when it’s thriving for the American people," he said on Fox News and retweeted. "We are not going to be taking that up in the Senate."
The GOP controls the Senate. Will some Senate Republicans break ranks with Senate Majority Leader McConnell to support the RTWA?
"We hope for the sake of our economy and businesses across this country that Sen. McConnell reconsiders his misguided opposition," Holly Sklar, head of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, told MultiBriefs in an email. "We all need to remember that working people are also customers. Increased pay means increased consumer buying power."
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