Hiking the U.S. minimum wage to $15 per hour would give millions of Americans a raise but put a smaller share of people out of work, according to projections released Monday.
Raising the pay floor to $15 per hour by 2025 would boost wages for 17 million workers, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated. At the same time, 1.3 million people would lose jobs, according to the CBO projections.
Earlier this year, House Democrats led by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., introduced a bill to gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024. The party has argued that doing so would lift workers out of poverty and kick-start economic growth.
Opponents of hiking the pay floor to that level — more than twice the current U.S. minimum wage of $7.25 that took effect in 2009 — argue it would cut positions for minimum wage workers amid higher costs.
The House could vote on the Democratic legislation, called the Raise the Wage Act, later this month. It is expected to pass, though the GOP-held Senate likely will not take it up. President Donald Trump could also oppose it.
Though the bill may not become law, Democrats view it as a way to portray themselves as better for the working class than Republicans as the 2020 elections approach. Every major Democratic candidate for president has endorsed a $15 per hour minimum wage. More than 200 House Democrats — including many who will face competitive reelection bids next year — have backed the bill.
"What the report makes clear is that the benefits vastly outweigh any cost," Scott told reporters on a call Monday. He said he feels "confident" the House has the votes to pass the bill when it votes this month.
Twenty-nine states and Washington D.C. have higher minimum wages than the federal level of $7.25. Seven states have also passed $15 per hour wage floors.
Here are the estimated effects of hiking the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, according to CBO projections:
Democrats have tried for years to raise the federal minimum wage. The U.S. pay floor has not budged in a decade. But some disagreements have emerged over what the appropriate minimum wage is and how quickly to increase it.
Some center-left Democrats representing lower-cost parts of the country hesitated to back a $15 per hour U.S. minimum wage. In part to appease those concerns, Rep. Tom O'Halleran, D-Ariz., and Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., proposed an amendment to Scott's bill that would require a Government Accountability Office report on the effects of the minimum wage increases.
Under that amendment, the GAO would prepare a report after two of the minimum wage hikes took the federal pay floor to $9.85. House and Senate committees could then make recommendations on changes to reduce any negative effects from the pay increases.