Republicans block minimum wage bill in Senate

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WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a top legislative and political priority of Democrats, a bill to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

The measure failed to gain enough support in a procedural vote to open debate.

In framing the issue ahead of November’s midterm elections, Democrats have portrayed the GOP as insensitive to the needs of low-wage workers.

Polls show a strong majority of Americans surveyed back raising the minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.25.

Even if the Senate had moved ahead with the legislation, there was little chance the House, which is led by Republicans, would have taken it up.

Still, Democrats are vowing to return to the issue.

“This is an emotional issue,” acknowledged Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who is up for re-election. But “from an economic point of view, if you want to increase the minimum wage you’re going to displace probably a million people from the economy at a time when we should be hiring people.”

Sen. Rob Portman also weighed in this week.

“I’m not in favor of the proposal of $10.10. I think it’s too high, too fast. I think it will result in job loss,” said the Ohio Republican who favors a smaller increase like the one adopted in his state.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte also said the wage hike would lead to a reduction in jobs in her state at a time when the economy is vulnerable.

“My first job was as a bus girl at a restaurant in New Hampshire making minimum wage,” the Granite State Republican said.

Supporters needed 60 votes to open debate in the Democratic-led chamber. They got 54.

Democrats hope the issue will drive their supporters to the polls this fall and help them hold onto the majority in the Senate. They argue it is wrong that people who work 40 hours a week making the current minimum still live in poverty.

“When workers do better, families do better,” said Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat. “When parents buy their kids enough to eat and shoes to wear, when they can get a haircut at the local barber, put gas in their car and fix up the house a little, everybody does better. The community does better, businesses do better. Families can walk tall when we reward work.”

Raising the minimum wage, the White House and other advocates argue, would have many positive effects, including increased productivity and lower turnover.

President Barack Obama in February signed an executive order raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for federal contractors beginning in 2015, and he is pushing Congress to do the same for all workers.

Among the types of workers who would benefit from the President’s order are concession workers in national parks, nursing assistants caring for veterans, people who serve food to U.S. troops and those who maintain the grounds on military bases, the White House said.

Obama, in a statement before the vote, urged lawmakers to move ahead with the proposal that he said would help 28 million Americans.

“It’s time for Republicans in Congress to listen to the majority of Americans who say it’s time to give America a raise,” he said.

However, not all Democratic senators supported the proposal before them on Wednesday. For instance, Sen. Mark Pryor, who is facing a challenging re-election in conservative Arkansas, supports a smaller increase that is under consideration in his state.

Republicans argued the liberal agenda Reid is pushing could backfire and hurt centrist Democrats this fall.

“For the Democrats here in the Senate, particularly the vulnerable ones who are in tough competitive races, they’ve got to be particularly sensitive to the agenda the Democrats are driving,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, a GOP leader. “I think there are a lot of Democrats, on minimum wage even, that are concerned about its impact on the economy.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats vowed to return to the issue again and again this year.

Raising the national minimum wage appears to be popular with many voters.

Recent national polls indicated that a strong majority of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. The most recent survey, conducted early last month by Bloomberg, put that support at 69%.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday indicated that by a 49%-33% margin, Americans say that the Democratic Party is closer to their views on the issue than the GOP.

And by a two-to-one margin, voters nationwide questioned earlier this month in a Quinnipiac University poll said they would be more likely than less likely to vote for a candidate who supports raising the minimum wage.

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  • dapandico

    The Democrats hold the majority and can pass the bill with 100% of the Democrats voting for the raise. When is Reid going to schedule a vote on the Pass It Now Jobs Bill?

    Nice media matters job of blaming the GOP.

  • Dick Peabody

    The minimum wage issue is a hoax. The commieDems are only using it to pretend they care about “fairness” and the plight of those less fortunate. If the commies really cared they would build the Keystone pipeline and develop our oil and gas. That would create thousands of HIGH paying jobs. Stop with the war on coal you commieDems. Coal means less expensive electricity which means greater productivity and cheaper energy bills. Get the teachers unions OUT of education and provide vouchers so kids can get a better education and higher paying jobs. Cut regulations that strangle business, raise costs, and decreases employment. And on and on. Don’t be fooled by the Commie DemocRats!

  • coloradocommish

    The NON-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that 500,000 more American’s would lose their jobs if this is enacted. Artificially raising the value of work without qualification is a bad idea.
    Who will pay for this pay raise? Not businesses, as they will surely pass the expense on to consumers. Then who, pray tell? Why, the usual suspects: the hard-working middle class, whose members will become just that much poorer. And of course, the entry-level workers, mostly teens, who will lose jobs the amendment is purportedly intended to enhance.

    It’s just another case of the redistribution of wealth
    But don’t expect this particular view to be reported by any of the Elite/Mainstream Media.

  • Fast45

    Good for the Senate! You want to rise above poverty? Obtain a better job. No skills or training, to get a better job? Gee, that’s really tough, but don’t ask the rest of us to subsidize you.

  • Fast45

    Good for the Senate! Get a better job if you don’t like living in poverty. What? You don’t have skills or training for a better job? Gee, that is tough, but the rest of us won’t subsidize you. In spite of what the Democrats say … life isn’t fair.

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