White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was challenged by reporters Wednesday about a perceived lack of action from the administration to advance a higher federal minimum wage.
The federal minimum wage was last raised to $7.25 an hour not long after President Barack Obama entered office. The president has expressed support for the $10.10 minimum wage but left the legwork to federal and local lawmakers. Earnest was asked during a press conference why the White House hasn’t done more to support another national increase.
“The President has been pretty clear that he’s strongly supportive of Democratic efforts in the United States Congress to raise the minimum wage,” Earnest said to reporters. “The President believes that the people who are making minimum wage in America right now deserve a raise.”
The president has noted support for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, but many within his own party want $15 an hour. Earnest blamed congressional Republicans for the minimum wage inaction, who tend to oppose raising the minimum wage because of the potential financial stress it puts on businesses.
“I think many of the proposals that have been floated in Congress have been phased proposals,” Earnest said. “But look, right now you have Republicans who are saying that people who are working the minimum wage don’t deserve a raise. People who are working full-time, making the minimum wage, raising a family of four, deserve to be below the poverty line.”
The president has openly encouraged states and other localities to pursue their own minimum wage increases. He has also supported the Raise the Wage Act which was proposed by Democrats Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Bobby Scott. His administration is also actively working to expand overtime benefits to more workers.
Minimum wage advocates have seen some of their biggest success on the local level since Obama entered office. The union-backed Fight for $15 movement has seen many successes on the city-level and now even in a couple of states. California and New York both enacted the highest state-level minimum wage Apr. 4 at $15 an hour.
Both state measures included several provisions that were the result of compromise to help get them passed. They include a longer phase-in period and special exemptions for small businesses to help them adjust. Small businesses and certain low-profit industries usually have more difficultly overcoming the added cost of labor.
Those in support of the policy say it could help address income inequality, but critics aren’t so sure. While people may end up earning more money employers may also cutback on their workforce or increase prices to overcome the added cost of labor. The California minimum wage will be increasing from $10.00 an hour while New York will be increasing from $9.00 an hour.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
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