WASHINGTON – In a surprise move, a House panel voted Tuesday for a hike in the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25, which would be the first increase in a decade.
But the move by the Appropriations Committee, as an amendment to a bill funding health and education programs, is likely to be stripped out when the measure comes to the House floor.
That's because the panel does not officially have jurisdiction over the issue, and Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, said will strike the provision on the floor.
McKeon said he has no plans to move a stand-alone bill raising the minimum wage.
Seven Appropriations panel Republicans voted with Democrats to approve the wage hike, including John Sweeney and Jim Walsh of New York, Ray LaHood of Illinois, Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri and Don Sherwood of Pennsylvania.
"Now we'll see what they do with it." said Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who sponsored the wage hike, based on a bill by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., to raise the wage in three increments over two years. "We're going to make a very pointed issue out of this."
When adjusted for inflation, the $5.15 per hour wage is the lowest it has been for 50 years, according to a study by Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal-leaning think tank.
"The minimum wage is lower than it has been at any time since 1956," said Miller, the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. "Congress' refusal to raise the minimum wage shows an utter disrespect for millions of Americans who work hard every day and still struggle to meet even the most basic needs."
But Republicans counter that raising the wage would provoke inflation and lead to job losses, especially for young people just entering the job market.
At $5.15 per hour, a worker who works 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year earns $10,712 per year.