The divide over how to increase the federal minimum wage at Thursday’s debate mirrored the Democratic presidential race as a whole.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders advocates a more broad stroke policy—$15 minimum wage across the board—while front-runner Hillary Clinton wants to play it safe—an immediate increase to $12 with options for states to go higher. The two agree that the minimum wage should go up, but not on how to achieve their desired end.
Clinton, responding to a question from moderator Wolf Blitzer, said that if she were president “of course” she would sign off on legislation to increase the federal minimum wage to Sanders’ desired $15, but said that the country must be careful of such broad stroke increases.
Sanders seemed taken aback that Clinton would support his desired wage level.
“What has happened is history has outpaced Secretary Clinton, because all over this country people are standing up and their saying $12 is not good enough, we need $15 an hour,” Sanders retorted. “To suddenly announce now that you’re for $15, I don’t think is quite accurate.”
Doubling the federal minimum wage from it’s current level of $7.25, says Clinton, would be difficult without the full support of Congress, so she is advocating a more piecemeal approach.
“Going from $7.25 to $12 is a huge difference,” Clinton said. “I want to get something done and I think setting a goal to get to $12 is the way to go and encouraging others to get to $15, but of course if we have a Democratic Congress we will go to $15.”