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If it's Saturday, it's time for Obama to talk up the minimum wage

U.S. President Barack Obama waves before boarding Air Force One at Osan Air Base, as he leaves South Korea for Malaysia, in Pyeongtaek April
U.S. President Barack Obama waves before boarding Air Force One at Osan Air Base, as he leaves South Korea for Malaysia, in Pyeongtaek April

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - For the fifth Saturday this year, the White House used the president's weekly address to exhort Republicans to support an increase in the minimum wage, a key part of President Barack Obama's voter-friendly economic agenda aimed at keeping Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate.

Obama has been pushing Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, up from the current level of $7.25, a move that would lift wages for almost 28 million people and is supported by more than 70 percent of Americans.

"While not all of us always see eye-to-eye politically, one thing we overwhelmingly agree on is that nobody who works full-time should ever have to live in poverty," Obama said in his address, which airs on radio stations and is posted online.

The measure is unlikely to pass Congress. Republicans argue it would kill jobs, pointing to a non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimate that it would cost about 500,000 people their jobs even as it lifted 900,000 people out of poverty.

Senate Democrats are expected to bring the measure up for a vote next week to try to rally support among voters and get them excited ahead of November midterm elections.

Republicans are expected to keep their majority in the House of Representatives after the election, and also could take control of the Senate if they pick up six seats.

That would make it hard for Obama to achieve his goals in his final two years in office. So he has pushed Democrats to work hard to get out the vote, and has talked up populist economic measures.

Raising the minimum wage has been Obama's most frequent theme in the Saturday addresses this year. He spoke about it on February 15 and 22, and on March 8. On March 29, Vice President Joe Biden stood in for Obama for the address, and also used the time to talk about raising the minimum wage.

Obama has also spoken about the issue around the country, buying sweaters at a Gap store to draw attention to the company's plan to raise the minimum wage for its workers and praising governors in states such as Connecticut who have passed their own minimum wage raises.

In this week's address, Obama described a New York City restaurant owner who was inspired to raise wages for her employees by the end of the year to at least $10 per hour.

He also panned Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin, a Republican, for signing a law stopping cities in the state from setting their own minimum wages.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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