The decision will be featured in his State of the Union address tonight and after he signs the executive order, it is expected to go into effect at the beginning of next year.
The increase from a national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour will not affect existing federal contracts, only new contracted workers like janitors and construction workers as well as workers in military bases who wash dishes, serve food and do laundry.
The order would be one of the biggest examples in the State of the Union of Obama’s vow to use presidential authority to push for policies by circumventing Congress.
Obama has been under pressure from liberal groups and employee advocates to use his executive authority to raise the minimum pay for federal contractors.
By limiting the increase to new contracts, the order would affect far fewer employees than if it applied to all government contractors.
Still, the issue dovetails with what will be Obama’s broader call for Congress to increase the national minimum wage to $10.10 and tie future increases to inflation. Obama called last year for an increase in the minimum wage to $9.
This year he is lending his support to legislation sponsored by Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Representative George Miller from California.
Their bill also would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers for the first time in more than two decades.
Increasing the wage for federal contractors does not require congressional action.
Republican Congressman Steve King, a six-term conservative and tea party favorite, said that Obama’s proposal is unconstitutional.
‘We have a minimum wage. Congress has set it. For the president to simply declare I’m going to change this law that has passed is unconstitutional,’ King said Tuesday.
The Tuesday night address will be wrapped in a unifying theme: The federal government can play a key role in increasing opportunities for Americans who have been left behind, unable to benefit from a recovering economy.
Yet, at the core of the address, the president will deliver a split message.
Even as he argues that low income Americans and many in the middle class lack the means to achieve upward mobility, Obama will also feel compelled to take credit for an economy that by many indicators is gaining strength under his watch.
As a result, he will talk positively about a recovery that remains elusive to many Americans.
Some Democrats are warning Obama to tread carefully.
‘We hope that he does not dwell on the successes of the economy, which may be apparent in employment statistics, the GDP and stock market gains, but which are not felt by folks at the grocery store,’ Democratic political analysts James Carville and Stan Greenberg wrote in a recent strategy memo.
The president will present Congress with an agenda largely unchanged from what he called for a year ago, but one that nevertheless fits neatly into this year’s economic opportunity theme.
He will continue to seek an overhaul of immigration laws, an increase in the minimum wage and expanded pre-school education.
But after a year in which those proposals languished and gun control failed, the White House is eager to avoid letting Obama be defined by quixotic ambitions.
As a result, he will stress success through executive actions, though their reach would be far more modest than what he could achieve through legislation.
‘It’s not a question of looking at Congress,’ White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said on Tuesday morning.
‘As we sit here and try to make sure there’s access to good jobs, we’re going to roll out on our own. Congress is slow to action and we’re not going to wait for that,’ he said in an interview on ‘CBS This Morning.’