Congressional Democrats are refusing to give up on the fight to increase the federal minimum wage, the Wall Street Journal (sub only) reports today:
WASHINGTON -- Democrats aim to make the minimum wage a maximum political problem for Republicans this election year.
The minority party fired the first shot last week, when the House Appropriations Committee broke with its Republican leadership and approved a $2.10-an-hour increase as part of a spending bill for labor, health and education programs. Speaker Dennis Hastert responded by putting the measure on hold -- possibly until after the election.
But Democrats are poised to come back this morning and offer the same wage amendment as part of a second appropriations bill funding science and law-enforcement agencies.
"I gave the Republicans fair notice that we will attach it to anything we can," said Wisconsin Rep. David Obey, the committee's ranking Democrat. [...]
Efforts to raise the minimum wage since 1997 have failed under Republican control of Congress, as business groups oppose the measure and lobbied against it. A group of more than 20 business organizations are fighting an increase this year, as part of the "Coalition for Job Opportunities." [...]
Despite business opposition, however, 21 states have enacted minimum wages above the $5.15 federal level, and roughly half the population lives in a state that already mandates higher hourly pay.
Focusing on raising the minimum wage isn't just good policy and morally right -- it's also good politically. As the Pew Research Center showed, 83% of the public support a wage boost -- including 72% of Republicans. Forcing the issue makes conservative lawmakers take the unpopular position of saying people who work should still be poor.
And as encouraging as recent state successes in boosting the wage have been (including North Carolina, which is poised to pass a $1 hike soon), it's a hit-and-miss proposition (witness the recent defeat in Tennessee). And frankly, it's also a questionable use of precious progressive resources to fight this one policy battle in dozens of state legislatures at a time (although there are many benefits for progressives to push this issue beyond the wage hike itself, such as gaining some important moral high ground).