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(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

WASHINGTON — The bitter standoff between Wal-Mart and Washington, D.C. officials over the city’s effort to impose a higher minimum wage on big-box retailers is fueling a wider debate about how far cities should go in trying to raise pay for low-wage workers — and whether larger companies should be required to pay more.

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, is fuming about a “living wage” bill approved by the D.C. Council that has an unusual twist — it would apply only to certain large retailers, forcing them to pay employees at least $12.50 an hour. That’s nearly 50 percent higher than city’s minimum wage of $8.25 an hour.

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