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House votes to raise minimum wage, uniting Dems after months-long struggle

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The House on Thursday passed legislation to gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, following through on a key Democratic campaign promise and ending a six-month struggle within the caucus.

The vote — which passed largely along party lines — marked a crucial test for Democratic leaders who worked hard to win over centrists without losing progressives as lawmakers battled behind the scenes to shape the proposal.

It also delivers a much-needed policy win for a party that has long called for a “living wage” and is eager to tout its domestic agenda during the upcoming summer recess after a slew of high-profile intraparty fights.

“All of America is going to be advantaged,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said to robust applause at a press conference with lawmakers and union workers before the vote. “They’re going to buy groceries, they’re going to buy clothes, they’re going to buy things they need.”

“And I hope the Senate will pass it as well,” Hoyer said, though Senate GOP leaders have already dismissed the bill and it’s not expected to go any farther.


“Today is a very good day,” added Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “It is long past due we show workers the respect they deserve.”

Three Republicans ultimately supported the bill: Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Francis Rooney of Florida, and Chris Smith of New Jersey.

Six Democrats, largely from red states, opposed the bill: Reps. Anthony Brindisi of New York, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Ben McAdams of Utah, Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico.

Hiking the minimum wage has been a key plank of the Democratic platform for years. But finding support within the fractious caucus was unexpectedly difficult.

Dozens of moderates, including many in vulnerable seats, feared a backlash from businesses back home for agreeing to more than double the hourly minimum wage, which has been set at $7.25 since 2009. Progressives, too, had been dug in against any major changes to water down the bill.

Democratic leaders only secured the necessary 218 votes days earlier by agreeing to phase in the wage increase over six years rather than five. Progressives disliked the idea early in the negotiations but they accepted it as necessary to solidify support among moderates.

“In this bill, we worked together to hear each other out, hear each other’s concerns, and then legislate the changes that were necessary,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy, co-chair of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition and a key negotiator, said in an interview.

“To me, that’s how you work in a productive and constructive way,” Murphy said.

Democrats are hoping that the hard-fought minimum wage victory will finally break through back home, where Democrats’ internal polls show that much of the public has been unaware of the House's legislative agenda.

Many rank-and-file members have also grown frustrated that high-profile spats between their own members and even more dramatic clashes with Trump have drowned out the series of bills they have passed — on health care, climate change, gun control and more.

One week ago, Democrats passed a massive defense policy bill and legislation to permanently fund benefits for 9/11 victims and first responders but saw press coverage entirely focused on a feud between Pelosi and progressive freshmen.


Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine





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via DMT.NEWS sferris@politico.com (Sarah Ferris), Khareem Sudlow