Pressing ahead with one of their main agenda items in the 116th Congress, Democrats are poised to push a bill through the House on Thursday which would more than double the federal minimum wage over the next six years, taking it from the current level of $7.25 an hour, and pressing it up to $15.
"This is a fair and overdue adjustment," argued Rep. Joseph Morelle (D-NY), as debate started Wednesday on the floor of the House.
"American workers haven't had the benefit of a federal minimum wage increase in over a decade, while the prices of everything have gone up," said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pressed Democrats to stick together on the minimum wage bill, arguing it 'lifts 1.3 million Americans out of poverty.'
Mark your calendars: tomorrow, the House will pass the #RaiseTheWage Act. By gradually raising the federal minimum wage to $15, we can raise wages for up to 33 million Americans in communities across the country.— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) July 17, 2019
But for most Republicans, the idea of raising the wage would be a giant economic mistake, hurting rural areas, and younger Americans looking for work.
"When Congress should be focused on pro-growth policies, this bill would be detrimental to American families, workers, and entrepreneurs," said Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX).
Republicans have pointed repeatedly to a recent Congressional Budget Office report, which estimated that the $15 minimum wage could cause job losses of 1.3 million - with a high estimate over 3.7 million.
"That's like firing the entire population of the state of Oklahoma," said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), in a line that's been used by a number of GOP lawmakers in recent weeks.
As a teenager growing up in Denton, Texas, I delivered pizzas, baled hay, and mowed lawns to pay for my education. Passing a federal minimum wage increase would eliminate such opportunities for future generations of Americans. pic.twitter.com/oegTS2xnT4— Michael Burgess, MD (@michaelcburgess) July 17, 2019
The original plan was to raise the minimum wage in five steps over five years - but because of resistance among some Democrats - the plan was changed to make it a six year increase.
The bill would raise the wage in steps, first to $8.45 an hour, then $9.50 a year after that, followed by a jump to $10.60, then $11.70 an hour, $12.80 an hour, $13.90, and lastly to $15 an hour.
After that, the minimum wage would be indexed to rise along with median wage growth in the United States.
While Democrats will certainly celebrate the passage of the plan - the bill seems unlikely to get a vote in the Republican-led Senate.