Senate Democrats are expected to act in early March on a bill that would boost the federal minimum wage following President Barack Obama's announcement in the State of the Union that he would sign an executive order raising the minimum wage for new contractors.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., "has committed to bring this legislation up in the next work period, the first part of March," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who is secretary of the Democratic Conference.
The next work period begins after the Presidents Day recess the week of Feb. 17.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, would phase in an increase in the current $7.25 an hour minimum wage over two years to $10.10 an hour.
Murray's comments were delivered at a news conference with 11 other Democratic female senators who all back the bill and come two days after Obama announced in his State of the Union address that he would sign an executive order for new federal contractors. He also stressed in the speech that he would use his executive authority more often to reduce income inequality if he Congress would not act due to partisanship.
"My hope over the next month is that our Republican colleagues do a little soul-searching as they prepare for this vote," Murray said.
Republicans charge that Democrats are using the issue of income inequality only for political gain and that raising the minimum wage would hurt employers and the economy.
Democrats contend that they are pushing for policies that help those who have been left behind by Republican pro-business policies. To that end supporters pointed out that most minimum wage workers are women.
"The minimum wage disproportionately affects women," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. "Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. Two-thirds of tipped minimum wage workers are women and in two thirds of America's families women are the breadwinners or the co-breadwinners."
She said boosting the minimum wage would raise the wages of 15 million women in America.
"When we lift the salaries of these workers it helps their children and their families," Boxer said.