House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday vowed to take up a $15 minimum wage in the first 100 hours of the next Congress if Democrats take back the chamber next year.
Pelosi offered the commitment while appearing alongside fellow Democratic leaders and advocates to release new legislation raising the minimum wage to $15. Her comments offer an early view at Democrats’ potential agenda for the House if they can claw back to control in 2018, a long-shot prospect that some in the party view as increasingly realistic given President Donald Trump and the GOP’s recent struggles.
If "we win the election," Pelosi told the gathered audience, "in the first 100 hours we will pass a $15 minimum wage."
The California Democrat conspicuously harkened back to 2007, when her caucus raised the minimum wage to its current level of $7.25 as part of an ambitious campaign for its first 100 hours in power. That 10-year-old agenda also included lowering the interest rate on student loans and allowing the government to negotiate drug prices under Medicare.
Pelosi endorsed a $15 minimum wage in 2015, aligning with Bernie Sanders on an issue that became a foundation of the Vermont independent senator’s unsuccessful bid for last year’s Democratic presidential nomination. The broad Democratic support for Thursday’s minimum wage hike illustrates the extent of Sanders’ influence on the agenda of the party whose leadership he has joined — without formally becoming a Democrat.
The minimum wage hike also has drawn early fire from conservatives who want to use Sanders’ rising influence as a weapon against a Democratic party moving to the left as it pushes back hard against Trump.
"This is a significant moment since it confirms that the Democrat Party is now in the hands of extreme liberals that have more in common with European Socialism than the free enterprise principles that have guided America for generations," Jeremy Adler, spokesman for the conservative group America Rising, said in a statement.
Even so, Democrats reiterated that the gradual increase of the minimum wage to $15 would be a core part of their economic agenda heading into the midterms. Trump should "stick up for working people by supporting our bill," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday.