The Washington Post

How GOP victories in 2010 haunt Obama’s minimum wage agenda – nationally and locally

States have been answering President Obama's call to raise the minimum wage. But the trend may be coming to an end. (Michael Reynolds/EPA)

President Obama's proposal to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 over three years was dead virtually as soon as it was announced in this year's State of the Union address. House Republicans made clear they weren't even going to entertain the idea, and so it hasn't gone anywhere in Congress.

As frustrating as that is, Obama has drawn comfort in that a number of states have moved on their own to raise the minimum wage. According to a new White House report released Tuesday highlighting the trend, 10 states have done so in 2014. And three states and the District of Columbia raised their minimum wage last year.

But the bad news for the White House is the trend may be coming to an end. All but two of the 13 states that have raised the minimum wage are controlled fully by Democrats. One of the other states, New Jersey, raised the minimum wage by voter referendum. So far, Michigan is the only Republican-controlled state that has increased the minimum wage.

Meanwhile, there are only four Democrat-controlled states remaining that have not yet raised the minimum wage.

The chart is a painful reminder to Democrats of the consequences of performing so poorly in the 2010 elections. Not only has it made legislation at the national level virtually impossible, it has sharply constrained what Democrats can achieve at the state level.

In 2009, Democrats controlled 17 state governments and Republicans controlled nine. Today, Republicans control 23 states, while Democrats control 15.

Nonetheless, on a call Tuesday afternoon, White House officials said that Americans would pressure their local and federal legislators to act on the minimum wage. "The minimum wage has historically been a bipartisan issue," said Labor Secretary Tom Perez. "When you have such overwhelming support for a policy initiative like the minimum wage, politicians of any strip ignore the voters at their peril."

Zachary A. Goldfarb is policy editor at The Washington Post.



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