President Obama Raises the Minimum Wage for Government Contractors, Waits for Republicans to Explode

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 28 2014 10:36 AM

President Obama Raises the Minimum Wage for Government Contractors, Waits for Republicans to Explode

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., can declare victory.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Put aside the "why the State of the Union is boring and doesn't matter" smart-takes for a minute and gander at this morning's actual news: an executive order raising the minimum wage for some people. From the guidelines:

In the State of the Union Address, the President will announce that he will use his executive authority to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for those working on new federal contracts for services. ... The increase will take effect for new contracts after the effective date of the order, so contractors will have time to prepare and price their bids accordingly.

Where did this idea come from? We actually know. Forty-nine members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Democratic group that spent much of 2013 denouncing any possible entitlement cuts in the president's budget or a fiscal deal, asked for exactly this. At the end of 2013, Rep. Keith Ellison hand-delivered a letter asking for the wage hike for contractors. "We know his heart is in the right place and he wants to do something," he said at the time, "and this is something he can do."

Today, Ellison spiked the football. "Activism works!" he said in a short video message.

So, with the proverbial stroke of the pen, the president has cheered the left of his party and raised wages for maybe hundreds of thousands of people. He has also stoked some predictable anger from Republicans.

"I don't like it," said Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz in a morning interview on C-SPAN. "I don't think that's the spirit of the Constitution."

Iowa Rep. Steve King, appearing on CNN, said basically the same thing, citing the part of the Constitution (Article II, if you're playing at home) that he thought had been shredded in plain sight.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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