Federal fight to raise the nation’s minimum wage

WASHINGTON – Lawmakers are expected to vote on Wednesday on whether or not to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.

It has support from many Americans, many Congressional Democrats and President Obama, but still, it’s a long-shot effort to get it through Congress.

“There is a moral issue here in addition to a very practical economic societal interest,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said.

The fight is taking shape again during a political year, with one-third of the Senate and every member in the House of Representatives up for re-election.

While Senators plan to vote this week, it is unlikely to pass. And, even more unlikely for House Republicans to take up the measure.

Still, some democrats see this as a big chance to shore up their base this election year, and possibly bring out more voters.

“I don’t care if it’s an election year or not an election year,” Brown said. “A minimum wage increase is right for our country since it hasn’t been increased in 7 years.”

President Obama vowed to increase the federal minimum wage during his State of the Union address in January, and national polls show many voters support increase.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) once worked a minimum wage job, and said his kids have had minimum wage jobs as well.

“It’s a political issue I suppose,” Portman said. “But I think it’s one we ought to talk about.”

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects if lawmakers raise the federal minimum wage, 16.5 million workers would get bigger paychecks, but roughly 500,000 jobs would be lost.

“We’ve got to be real careful about raising it too fast, too far, because it is going to result in job loss, that is what the economic studies show, and the last thing we need right now is fewer jobs,” Portman said.

Even though it does not look like Congress will get very far on the issue, many states around the country have already acted.

More than 20 states have a minimum wage higher than the federal one, and more states are expected to join them this year.

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