President Barack Obama was in Michigan Wednesday to push his agenda of raising the federal minimum wage. The president expressed a desire to hike wages in his 2014 State of the Union address and has sought to make it a key issue during this year’s midterm elections.
In a speech, delivered at the University of Michigan, the president attacked Republican lawmakers who oppose the idea.
"You've got a choice," Obama said. "You can give America the shaft, or you can give it a raise."
The president would like to see the minimum wage raised to $10.10 per hour. He argues that doing so would help many families struggling in poverty to make it into the middle class.
"It would lift millions of people out of poverty right away," he said, according to the Associated Press.
The sizable federal wage hike is not likely to pass through Congress, though. The Senate’s second-ranking Democrat, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, said Wednesday that if Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, block a minimum wage proposal, he would be open to a compromise.
"What we know for certain is $10.10 isn't going to get through the Senate, much less the House,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
The opposition at the federal level means that it would be up to individual states to raise wages. Currently, there are 34 states debating the issue. The president’s real motive for his speech, then, may have been to provide support to those statewide initiatives, according to the New York Times.
Michigan Democrats, who would like to raise the state’s minimum wage, face stiff opposition. The state’s legislature is controlled by the GOP, and Gov. Rick Snyder is also a Republican.
A Washington Post blog indicates that state Democrats are attempting to stir emotions and create a grassroots effort to increase wages. A coalition known as Raise Michigan is trying to get an initiative put on the November ballot that would gradually raise the hourly income of the lowest paid workers to $10.10 over the next three years. They have until May 28 to collect 258,000 signatures to make a vote possible.
It is hoped that Obama’s appearance in the state will generate enough publicity to make that happen. A recent poll showed that 65 percent of Michigan voters support raising the minimum wage.