WASHINGTON — A move by lawmakers to make permanent an increase the minimum wage for federal contractors as part of the annual defense authorization bill faces Republican opposition as the measure heads to the House floor for debate.
Included in the sweeping military spending measure, which Congress has passed every year for more a half-century, is language that would codify President Joe Biden’s executive order guaranteeing a $15-an-hour minimum wage for employees at companies doing business with the federal government.
The move went into effect in January and covered about 300,000 workers.
Democrats in Congress included the language in the defense bill to ensure that the policy will stay in effect even after Biden departs the White House. However, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., introduced an amendment that would strike it.
The amendment would not undo the executive order or revert contractor pay to previous levels, but would make it easier to abolish the contractor rules under a future administration or abandon the pay promise if a court ruled the order was improper.
Conservative critics and Republicans lawmakers argue that minimum wage laws unfairly limit business owners by mandating higher payrolls.
Officials from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank have said the moves would force federal departments to cut back on services and on needed modernizations because of the extra cost.
Rep. Donald Norcross, D-N.J. and the leader of several congressional efforts to raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour, criticized Boebert’s proposal as harmful to families in need of financial help.
“This is people’s livelihoods we’re talking about,” he said in a statement. “This is about paying bills and putting food on tables.
“Taking away money people are already earning is definitely one way to give the American people a clear view of where our [political] sides line up when it comes to supporting working people,” he said.
Whether Boebert’s amendment will get a full House discussion is unclear. House Rules officials will meet early next week to discuss how many of the 1,192 amendments filed to the authorization bill will be considered during floor debate in coming weeks. Since Democrats control the chamber, many Republican-backed amendments won’t be considered.
The defense authorization bill is expected to be advanced by the chamber before the end of the month.
Along with contractor pay, Biden issued another executive order providing a $15-an-hour minimum wage for federal workers. About 70,000 individuals were impacted by that move, with the majority of them, about 56,000 workers, employed by the Department of Defense.
There are about 2.1 million total employees of the federal government.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.