A democratic bill that would raise the Federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour died in the Senate today, unable to pass a procedural hurdle required to open debate. Introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA.) and facing strong Republican opposition, the measure failed by a margin of 54 to 42.
The bill, if passed, would have raised the federal minimum wage from the current rate of $7.25 to $10.10 incrementally over the next 30 months, with automatic raises thereafter tied to inflation. It is widely opposed by both business groups and conservative organizations.
Republican opposition to the bill was nearly unanimous, with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) the sole member of the GOP to vote in favor of the measure. Opponents of raising the minimum wage, which has remained stagnant since 2009, say that doing so will prove too costly for businesses. To support that assertion, they point to a recent CBO report that suggests raising wages could lead to the loss of jobs. Sen John Cornyn of Texas, the number 2 GOP leader, minced no words in his assessment of today’s vote.
“This is all about politics. This is about trying to make this side of the aisle look bad and hard-hearted.”
Democrats, who are hoping to use the issue of raising the minimum wage to gain traction in this year’s midterm elections, were quick to address the bill’s failure. President Obama, in remarks delivered from the White House, hit out at Republicans for their opposition to wage increases.
“This is a very simple issue. Either you’re in favor of raising wages for hard-working Americans or you’re not. Either you want to grow the economy from the middle out and the bottom up, so that prosperity is broad-based, or you think that top-down economics is the way to go.”
The President also accused Republicans of foot-dragging on the issue, taking the opportunity to remind voters that “Republicans in Congress don’t get the last word on this issue, or any issue. You do. The voters.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was even more vocal following the vote, accusing those who oppose raising the minimum wage of doing so to protect corporate interests. (Sen. Reid switched his vote on the bill to a “no” in a procedural move which allows him to raise the issue again in the future.)
“If Americans are searching for an answer, why they would refuse to raise the minimum wage, they should look no further than the Republicans’ billionaire benefactors — I repeat, billionaire benefactors, the Koch brothers.”
The longtime Republican backers, who Reid has repeatedly targeted in the run-up to the midterms, have consistently opposed efforts to raise the minimum wage. Americans for Prosperity, a group backed by the industrialists, has pinpointed wage hikes as a key issue that it will use to judge lawmakers.
A full 63 percent of people polled recently expressed support for raising the minimum wage, which was introduced in 1938. The current Federal minimum of $7.25 results in a full-time minimum wage worker earning $14,500 annually, an amount that still leaves them below the poverty line.