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President Barack Obama’s push for a $9-an-hour minimum wage in his State of the Union address this week has already been rejected by Speaker John A. Boehner, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for Democrats.
As the president and his fellow Democrats look for popular wedge issues in their effort to hold on to the Senate and their long-shot bid to retake the House in 2014, the debate could prove a useful cudgel regardless of whether the policy becomes law.
The White House is clearly eager for the fight; the administration put out extensive documentation on the minimum wage proposal and contends that it will not harm job creation and will boost the take-home pay for nearly 15 million people.
And Obama reiterated the push to increase the minimum wage Wednesday in a post-State of the Union speech in North Carolina.
“I believe we reward effort and determination with wages that allow working families to raise their kids and get ahead,” he said. “And that’s part of the reason why I said last night that it’s time for an increase in the minimum wage, because if you work full time, you shouldn’t be in poverty.”
Unions and senior Democrats predictably cheered, but Republicans and their allies panned it.
Boehner tried to kill the idea in its crib Wednesday morning.
The Ohio Republican’s message was simple — a higher minimum wage would mean fewer jobs, hurting many of the people it aims to help.
“When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it. At a time when the American people are still asking the question, ‘Where are the jobs?’ why would we want to make it harder for small employers to hire people?” he asked.
Boehner continued, “Listen, I’ve got 11 brothers and sisters on every rung of the economic ladder. I know about this issue as much as anybody in this town. And what happens when you take away the first couple rungs on the economic ladder, you make it harder for people to get on the ladder.”
Boehner said many people are earning minimum wage because they have no skills, and if their jobs go away, it’ll be harder for them to gain skills.
But Democrats and the White House quickly jumped on the comments.
“If the GOP is opposed to raising the minimum wage, what is their plan to ensure people who work full time don’t live in poverty?” Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer tweeted.