Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) — Gap Inc., the owner of Old Navy, Banana Republic and its namesake apparel chain, will raise its hourly pay for U.S. employees to $9 in 2014 and $10 the following year, saying it wants to "do more than sell clothes."

The increased pay will benefit about 65,000 store employees, the San Francisco-based company said today in a statement. Chief Executive Officer Glenn Murphy announced the plan during an employee conference call this morning.

In making the move, Gap adds fodder to a national debate on whether the federal government needs to step in and raise the minimum wage. President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats want to increase the rate to $10.10 an hour from $7.25, saying it will bolster the economy and reduce income equality. Most Republican lawmakers oppose the idea.

"To us, this is not a political issue," Murphy said in a statement on the Gap website. "Our decision to invest in front- line employees will directly support our business, and is one that we expect to deliver a return many times over."

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