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Rep. George Miller
Rep. George Miller (Official photo)

Congressional Democrats face a disagreement amongst themselves over what goals to set in their efforts to raise the minimum wage. Rep. George Miller of California, the ranking member of the House Workforce Committee, is following Sen. Tom Harkin's lead by introducing legislation that would raise the minimum wage gradually over a period of years; Harkin is proposing that it would go from its current level of $7.25 to $9.80 in three stages over three years. By contrast, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois is pushing Democrats to embrace an immediate increase of the minimum wage to $10, then indexing it to inflation so that it would increase gradually but automatically in the future.

Neither approach will pass while Republicans control the House, but this is a core principle Democrats should be organizing around now, and that does seem to be the plan:

[House Democratic Caucus Chair John] Larson, for his part, conceded that [Miller's] bill has no chance of moving before November's elections. But he hinted that Democrats would try to attach it to any number of the many fiscal and tax-related packages Congress will likely be forced to tackle in this year's lame duck.
The last minimum wage increase was passed the month Democrats retook Congress in 2007 after exactly such a campaign to force votes on it under Republican leadership.

While Democrats vigorously debate how much and how quickly they'd like to raise the minimum wage, Republican politicians variously don't even know what the minimum wage is, ignore it, or want to abolish it. Republican voters tend to be much more favorable, as in New York where a majority of Republican voters support an increase to $8.50, or Florida, where a minimum wage bill was passed by 72 percent of voters in 2004. At the current rate of $7.25 an hour, a full-time minimum wage worker earns $15,080 per year.

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