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POLITICS: PennAve

House Democrats push increase in minimum wage despite GOP opposition

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House Democrats on Wednesday ramped up efforts to pressure Republicans to support an increase in the national minimum wage, demanding House Speaker John Boehner immediately hold a vote on legislation to increase the hourly rate to $10.10.

With no Republicans on board and Boehner, R-Ohio, showing no indication he will bring the bill to the floor, the Democrats' efforts are a long shot at best and appear little more than an exercise in political posturing.

But House Democrats say minimum-wage increases historically have been bipartisan efforts, accusing Boehner of playing politics by refusing to hold a vote on the Democrats' bill.

"Not to have this vote is to abdicate our responsibility that we have to the middle class," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at a news event Wednesday. "Mr. Speaker, give us the vote."

The Democratic effort would require a simple majority of lawmakers in the chamber to sign a "discharge petition," a long-standing way for the minority party to force action on their priorities. If Democrats get the needed signatures, the House must bring up the legislation for a vote.

With Democrats controlling only 199 votes in the 435-member chamber, which currently has four vacancies, finding enough Republican votes is a monumental task.

Republicans oppose the measure, arguing that it would kill jobs.

The Congressional Budget Office said raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour would lift nearly 900,000 families out of poverty, but it also projected a half-million jobs would be lost.

Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop of New York, who is leading the discharge petition effort, denied the push was being done only for political purposes.

"We're all a little too busy to take this on as simply an empty exercise," he told reporters after the news event. "I think there is a fighting chance we can get 19 [Republicans needed for passage], particularly if the speaker and [House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.] release their members to vote for it and don't punish them" if they do.

Bishop said he and the Democratic caucus will actively recruit Republicans to support the measure.

"We do have relationships across the aisle, both personal and professional, and I think we have to use those relations to see if we can convince our Republican colleagues to come along."

He added that while "one or two" Democrats may refused to support a minimum-wage increase, the rest of the caucus will back it.

The push contrasts with a slower approach taken in the Senate by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who on Tuesday said the his chamber is unlikely to consider a minimum-wage increase until late March at the earliest.

Bishop said Reid's move has more to do with a busy schedule in the Senate than a lack of enthusiasm by Senate Democratic leaders to move forward on an increase.

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Sean Lengell

Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner