(CNN) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday he wants to pass an increase in the minimum wage in the next two weeks.
“I’m going to try to do it this month,” Reid said after leaving a closed Democratic caucus meeting on the issue in the Capitol.
Jason Furman, a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama, attended the session.
Word of the new item on the legislative agenda — and its compressed time frame for action — comes just days before the Senate is scheduled to break for Thanksgiving.
It comes also as Democrats on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are caught up in the troubled online rollout of the President’s health reform law.
“I think there is a strong need to adjust the minimum wage to reflect the erosion it’s had since its last passage,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, who insisted Democrats are just “doing our business” by taking up the measure now.
Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, said there’s been no decision on how high to raise the hourly rate now at $7.25 per hour.
Durbin said most Democrats believe the hike should be phased in over three years to about $10.
Congress last approved a minimum wage hike in 2007.
Asked why Democrats are moving it now he said it’s “long overdue, an important economic issue, a message to working families struggling paycheck to paycheck that we can help.”
Most Republicans are expected to oppose the increase, according to GOP senators and aides, but will offer a counter proposal they say will help create jobs.
“We’re going to have some ideas about job creation and supporting higher wages by creating more jobs and more demand for labor,” Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota.
He said an increase placed on employers would lead to the elimination of jobs.
“We want wages to be higher than minimum wage and you do that through job creation,” he said.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who chairs the committee that deals with labor issues, acknowledged there are “a few” Democrats who have “legitimate concerns” about the increase. He declined to specify what they were.
Two moderate Democrats emerged from the meeting and declined to immediately embrace the idea.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, refused to answer questions about whether she would support an increase.
And Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia responded, “We just starting talking” about the proposal. When he was told that Reid said it might be on the floor this month, Manchin replied, “I don’t know about that.”