The White House disclosed this morning that during his State of the Union address this evening, President Obama will announce an increase in the minimum wage for federal contract workers.
By using his executive authority, the President can increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for those employees of federal contractors making less than that amount.
Interestingly, the President’s proposal parallels one made by the gay community severeal years ago: That the President use an executive order to implement jobs protection legislation for gay and trans people (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, aka ENDA) who work for federal contractors. While many do not realize it, it is currently legal under federal law to fire someone simply because they’re gay or transgender.
ENDA passed the Senate last year, but has zero chances of passing a GOP-controlled House, as Republican Speaker John Boehner has made clear.
In the past, the administration has said that it prefers congressional action on legislation, as opposed to an executive order, as actual legislation is more sweeping and more permanent:
Obama’s advisers say they’re also relying on their experience in 2010, when Congress repealed the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays serving openly in the military. The president came under pressure at the time to end the ban through executive actions, but he insisted that an act of Congress would be more sweeping and have an enduring impact.
The same rationale applies to the minimum wage. Actual legislation would affect more people, and be harder to overturn than an executive order. But now that that rationale has flown (or been flung) out the window, it no longer applies to ENDA either.
As the President said back in 2011: “We can’t wait for an increasingly disfunctional Congress to do its job. Where they won’t act, I will.”
UPDATE: Jen Bendery at HuffPo asked former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today about an executive order covering ENDA, and Pelosi said the Presdient should do it.
As more background on this issue, here’s a nice Jon Stewart video on the issue of an ENDA executive order.