House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland went on “The Ed Show” last night to announce that Democrats in the House plan to use a “Discharge Petition” to force a vote on the minimum wage increase in the coming weeks. The discharge petition, as long as it is supported by a majority of house members, forces the majority party to bring a measure to the floor for a vote.
Republicans and majority leader John Boehner have refused to bring a minimum wage increase to the floor, because the party does not support it. As Boehner has repeatadly said when asked about an increase to the minimum wage, the Speaker of the House believes that, just like when you raise the price of other goods, you get less sales, when you raise the price of labor, you get less of it.
Boehner’s belief, which has been the standard Republican talking point on the issue ever since Fred Flinstone first walk/ran his car to work, has been widely disproved by economists. This week, a group of 75 economists, including seven Nobel Peace Prize winners such as Joseph Stiglitz and Peter Diamond, sent a letter to the House asking them to increase the minimum wage and reminding them that they do not believe it would be harmful to employment.
Additionally, the position seems to be politically toxic for the Republicans, as nearly two-thirds of Americans think the minimum wage should be higher, suggesting an average amount of $9.41 per hour, based on polling. What’s more, American’s more generally think that the field is tilted in favor of the rich in this country, again with two thirds holding that viewpoint. Among Democrats, 75% favor Government attempts to battle income inequality, and even among independents the number stands at 57%.
With public opinion so strongly in their favor, but the Republican party suicidally refusing to even allow the issue a vote in the House, the Discharge Petition seems to the the Democrat’s best chance- to raise the minimum wage AND make gains in this year’s election.
Assuming minimal Democratic defections, which is a very safe bet on this issue, Democrats will need to find 20-25 Republicans to buck their party leadership and allow a vote on the minimum wage increase. With the politics of the issue as shown above, there is a very real chance that Democrats can find those 20-25 votes in vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in evenly divided or blue districts.