Democratic leaders said they would circulate a "discharge
petition," which, if signed by half of the House's 435 members,
would require Republicans to bring the measure up for a vote.
Democrats admitted that it would be an uphill battle to muster the
needed signatures in the House, which is held by Republicans
232-200, with three vacancies.
But they noted that polls show that about 75 percent of Americans
support an increase in the minimum wage, and that many Republican
lawmakers have said they are open to it.
"Let's see how many are willing to put their signatures where their
voices have been," said Congressman Xavier Becerra of California,
chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
Democrats announced their plans on the eve of Obama's visit to the
final day of their annual three-day retreat in the waterfront town
of Cambridge, Maryland.
They said that they would begin circulating their "discharge
petition" when they return to work following next week's
The Democratic-led Senate is expected to consider such legislation
later this month or next, but Republicans appear certain to block
Obama wants to increase the federal minimum wage, which has stood at
$7.25 an hour since July 2009, to $10.10 an hour over three years
and then index it to inflation in the future.
The president and his Democrats say the minimum wage needs to be
raised as part of their effort to reduce what has been a growing gap
between rich and poor.
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Republicans argue that an increase in the minimum wage would
backfire and end up costing many Americans their jobs.
Obama and his Democrats have been frustrated by House Republican
leaders, who have virtually ignored most of the president's
In addition to raising the minimum wage, Obama want a comprehensive
overhaul of the U.S. immigration system and renewal of expired
emergency benefits for more than 1.8 million Americans who have been
out of work for six months or longer.
Polls show most Americans support these efforts, and House
Democratic leaders said they may eventually circulate "discharge
petitions" on both of them.
Discharge petitions are one of the few powers the House minority has
to try to force action. They rarely succeed since they require many
in the majority to buck their own leadership.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)
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