Minimum Wage Debate Heats Up Washington

President Obama's proposed wage raise would affect 15 million people.
2:18 | 02/13/13

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Transcript for Minimum Wage Debate Heats Up Washington
hot debate about the president's proposal in the state of the union to raise the minimum wage in america. He said he wants to raise it from $7.25 an hour to $9, tied to inflation. And that will effect 15 million people. By the way, nearly two-thirds women and they're young, working to make their way into the middle class. So, how much would this help? Here's abc's chief white house correspondent jonathan karl. Reporter: The president took his state of the union message on the road today to asheville, north carolina, touting his most controversial new proposal -- raising the minimum wage. It's time for an increase the minimum wage, because if you work full time, you shouldn't be in poverty. Reporter: Lucas case of henderson county, north carolina, is a high school grad who couldn't afford college. He makes the minimum wage washing dishes. Well, it's not fun living paycheck to paycheck. Reporter: Working 30 hours a week, he earns just $217 dollars a week. A raise to $9 an hour would mean $52 a week more in his paycheck. What would he do with the extra money? Be able to do more things, have a better life. Reporter: The raise would be enough to lift at least some people out of poverty. A full-time minimum wage worker earns $14,500 a year. For a single parent with a child, that's below the federal poverty line. 9 an hour means the annual salary of $18,000, slightly above the poverty level. But critics say there's a big downside. Raise the minimum wage and companies won't be able to hire as many workers. Why would we want to make it harder for small employers to hire people? Reporter: As evidence, they point to the unemployment rate among young people, who are the most likely to earn minimum wage. Youth unappointment went up after the minimum wage increased six years ago and now stands at nearly 24 pshgt, much higher than the overall rate. The president faces a big uphill fight in this in congress from republicans who say raising the minimum wage would only send the unemployment rate higher. As one senate republican told me today, the last thing employers need right now is to make hiring people more expensive. Diane? Morning after the state of the union. Thank you so much, jonathan karl.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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