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Obama to Again Push for Minimum Wage Hike

CBSNews -- President Obama on Wednesday traveled to Connecticut to call for an increase of the federal minimum wage, part of the Democrats' 2014 economic agenda that remains stalled in Congress.

President Obama on Wednesday will travel to Connecticut to call for an increase of the federal minimum wage, part of the Democrats' 2014 economic agenda that remains stalled in Congress.

The president will be joined by a group of Democratic, northeastern governors who back the effort, including Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Peter Shumlin of Vermont and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. Last week, Malloy went to bat for the White House after Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana slammed the president's proposal to raise the minimum wage.

"What I worry about is this president and the White House seems to be waving the white flag of surrender...the Obama economy is now the minimum wage economy," Jindal said outside of the White House after a group of governors met with the president.

Standing next to Jindal, Malloy called the comments "insane." On a conference call with reporters over the weekend, Malloy said the opposition to the proposal was partisan.

"In the past we've seen wage increases under Republican administrations," he noted.

Given the GOP resistance, the president and his party have made the minimum wage a prime issue ahead of the midterm elections.

"It is time to give America a raise, or elect more Democrats who will do it," Mr. Obama said last week at a meeting of the Democratic National Committee.

"The American people are way ahead of Congress on this," the president added. "A majority of Americans support raising the minimum wage. But Republicans in Congress, surprisingly enough, oppose raising the minimum wage."

Mr. Obama is calling on Congress to pass Democratic legislation to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. At its current level, the minimum wage is in real terms worth about 20 percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan took office.

Last month, in the absence of legislation to raise the minimum wage, Mr. Obama signed an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their employees at least $10.10 an hour. "I'm going to do what I can; Congress should do what it needs to do," he said before signing the order. "I will not give up on this fight no matter how long it takes."

It's unclear exactly how long it will take. The Democratic-led Senate will take it up in late March at the earliest, while the GOP-led House so far has no plans to vote on it.

Democrats, meanwhile, are still trying to push through a retroactive extension of emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed. The Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program expired in December, immediately leaving 1.3 million Americans without benefits. Since then, about 72,000 more people have lost benefits each week, bringing the number of long-term unemployed Americans without government assistance to two million this week.

The Senate has unsuccessfully tried multiple times this year to extend the EUC program, failing even though a handful of Republicans have signed on to the effort.

Lawmakers leading the effort are now trying to build a new compromise -- a six-month extension of the program that would be applied retroactively to December 28, when the benefits expired. The measure would be paid for with savings from the farm bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., placed the bill on the Senate calendar Tuesday evening, which is the first step toward bringing it up for a vote. Senate leaders still need to resolve whether amendments will be allowed to the legislation -- a sticking point that killed the effort last month.

"If we are not able to offer amendments, then there is now way that this is ever going to pass," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of the Republicans working with Democrats on the issue, told CBS News. "It's just not right. Many of us think that there needs to significant reforms."

Collins said she drafted an amendment that would give states the option of linking the benefits to a training or volunteering requirement. She also said that many Republicans don't consider the farm bill a realistic cost offset.

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