CHICAGO – SEPTEMBER 21: Wal-Mart employee Anna Hines walks through the parking lot of the soon-to-opened Wal-Mart September 21, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois. The controversial new Wal-Mart, Chicago’s first, is set to open September 27, 2006 in the wake of a defeated Chicago wage law that would have set minimum “living wage” requirements for big box stores. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

The House has approved legislation to raise the federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade, to $15 an hour. Democrats pushed through the bill Thursday with a party-line vote of 231-199, but it has almost no chance in the Republican-controlled Senate.

A hike in the $7.25 hourly wage has been a top Democratic campaign promise. It’s intended to address income inequality that’s driving the 2020 political debate. The legislation, for the first time, would pay tipped workers the same as others earning the minimum, boosting their pay to $15 an hour, too. It’s now $2.13.

Republicans balked at the wage hike, saying it would cost jobs. States are already able to raise the wage beyond the federal minimum, and many have done so.

A minimum wage hike has been a top Democratic campaign promise, intended to address income inequality that’s driving the 2020 political debate. Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said raising the wage is the “right thing to do.”

A $15 federal minimum wage would give a direct raise to 17 million workers and would “likely” boost pay for 10 million more, an assessment by the Congressional Budget Office found this month.  

A raise to $15 would also likely cause job losses, the CBO said, although it noted “considerable uncertainty” about how steep those losses would be.  The CBO also said as many as 3.7 million workers could lose their jobs if the federal minimum rose. 

The wage hike is considered a long shot given that Republicans control the Senate and the White House, but some big corporations are supportive of the effort. Amazon recently pledged to raise its minimum to $15 after feeling political pressure, with Costco following suit and Target moving to $15 an hour next year.

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