House votes to raise minimum wage to $15

The House voted Thursday to approve legislation to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025 from its current level of $7.25.

The move comes as more states and cities across the U.S. have enacted their own minimum wage increases this year. The bill passed by a vote of 231-199, spearheaded by the Democratic majority. However, in the Republican-led Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said he has no plans to bring up the legislation, telling the Fox Business Network that it would depress the economy, and the White House has threatened to veto it.

Nevertheless, passage of the bill helps Democrats point to legislation they hope to get enacted after the 2020 election if they are able to secure a majority in the Senate and win the presidency.

The U.S. Capitol building is reflected in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Capitol building is reflected in Washington, D.C.

“Today, House Democrats took a major step toward raising wages for up to 33 million American workers,” said House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Virginia, in a statement. “After more than 10 years with no increase in the federal minimum wage — the longest stretch in history — the minimum wage is now a poverty wage everywhere in America. The Raise the Wage Act reflects the basic idea that hardworking Americans working full-time should not live in poverty.“

He noted that according to the Congressional Budget Office’s review of a similar proposal, the Raise the Wage Act would lift roughly 1.3 million Americans out of poverty, including 600,000 children.

Labor unions and advocacy groups have been pressing for a raise in the federal minimum wage, pointing out that the 10 years since Congress last raised the federal minimum wage is the longest period of time without an increase since a federal minimum wage was enacted in 1938.

While the Senate is unlikely to take up the legislation, minimum wage increases have been taking effect in states across the country this year. Eighteen states began the new year with higher minimum wages, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Eight of them (Alaska, Florida, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, South Dakota and Vermont) automatically increased their minimum wage rates based on the cost of living, while 10 states (Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Rhode Island and Washington state) increased their rates due to previously approved legislation or ballot initiatives. Other states and districts that will see rate increases during the 2019 calendar year include washington, D.C., Delaware, Michigan and Oregon.

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