While advocates for a higher minimum wage have victories to point to around the country, passing a $15 per hour wage floor could prove daunting at the federal level. Opponents argue that level will stifle businesses in areas where workers do not face the cost of living they do in major cities such as New York and San Francisco. They also contend that higher wages will lead to employers cutting back on workers' hours.
As a candidate in 2016, Trump said he would rather "leave it to the states." While the president has not discussed the issue much recently, his top economic advisor criticized the federal minimum wage in October.
"My view is a federal minimum wage is a terrible idea, terrible, and will damage particularly small businesses," National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said at an event hosted by The Washington Post. "To force them to kind of take a payroll increase would be silly."
He also noted that "Idaho is different than New York" and "Alabama is different than Nebraska."
Powerful business group have also lined up against the a $15 per hour federal minimum wage. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which bills itself as the world's largest business organization, has criticized the proposal.
Marc Freedman, vice president of employment policy at the Chamber of Commerce, said many businesses "do not have the ability to absorb an increase in their labor costs" to $15 per hour, which he called a "dramatic escalation." He argued that "small businesses are least positioned to absorb that level of impact," especially in less affluent parts of the country.
Freedman did not say whether the organization would back a different federal minimum wage between $7.25 and $15 per hour. He noted, though, that the Chamber would want provisions that benefit employers to go along with a wage-floor increase.
Even if Democrats have a tough time passing a higher federal pay floor, they see the issue as a winning one as they try to contrast themselves from Republicans. A Pew Research Center poll in late 2016 found 58 percent of Americans favor a $15 per hour minimum wage, versus 41 percent who oppose it.
The Democratic Party sees the minimum wage as part of a broader strategy to cast itself as the party of working people. The push to hike the federal pay floor, along with proposals aimed to reduce corruption in government and money in politics, boost health and child care benefits and cut drug prices, all fit into a Democratic strategy to paint the party as better for the working class than Republicans.
Pelosi and numerous other Democrats have used recent developments — including Trump's trade war with China and some early signs of cracks in a strong economy — as an argument for their agenda.
"November's jobs report shows an economy straining beneath the weight of a callous GOP special interest agenda that has ransacked the economic security of hard-working families to enrich the already-wealthy," Pelosi said in a statement last week after the jobs report release.
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