POLITICS
12/05/2013 01:53 pm ET | Updated Dec 06, 2013

GOP Rep. Joe Barton Calls For Minimum Wage Repeal

President Barack Obama's call to raise the minimum wage has long been met with resistance from congressional Republicans, but Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) took things a step further by suggesting the minimum wage be done away with entirely.

"I think it's outlived its usefulness," Barton told National Journal in a story published Thursday. "It may have been of some value back in the Great Depression. I would vote to repeal the minimum wage."

The story didn't include any specifics on why Barton felt the minimum wage had lost its value, and a request to his office for further explanation wasn't immediately returned.

Barton's comments came one day after Obama delivered a highly-discussed speech on income inequality and poverty, in which the president renewed his push for a higher minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour, which amounts to roughly $15,000 a year.

Obama said that despite working around the clock, individuals who work in the fast-food and retail industries, as well as nurses, continue to live at or barely above poverty.

"That’s why it’s well past the time to raise a minimum wage that, in real terms right now, is below where it was when Harry Truman was in office," he said.

During his State of the Union address this year, Obama unveiled a proposal that would raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour. He has since thrown his support behind an increase to $10.10 an hour under a bill introduced by Senate Democrats.

GOP lawmakers are mostly opposed to any minimum wage hike, even though 76 percent of Americans said they would be comfortable with setting the wage floor at $9 an hour. Republicans on Capitol Hill have argued that raising the minimum wage would hurt everything from small businesses to teenagers looking for part-time work, but several academic studies have contradicted their claims.

The suggestion to abolish the minimum wage altogether is more rare to come by, but Barton isn't alone. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the ranking Republican on the Senate's labor committee, also declared in June that he didn't believe in the concept of minimum wage and would support its repeal.

Alexander's comments came during a meeting marking the 75th anniversary of the Federal Labor Standards Act, which put a minimum wage in place and mandated overtime pay. Alexander likened a minimum wage hike to welfare and suggested a higher earned-income tax credit instead, a common alternative pushed by conservatives.

"The question I want to ask, if we are interested in social justice, and we want to honor work instead of getting a welfare check, then wouldn't a more efficient way to help people in poverty be to increase the earned-income tax credit rather than do what we always do here, which is come up with a big idea and send the bill to somebody else?" Alexander said. "What we're doing is coming up with the big idea and sending the bill to the employer."

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