Senate Republicans Block Minimum Wage Hike
Once again, a filibuster led by Senate Republicans has blocked a bill that would increase the Federal minimum wage to $10.10:
WASHINGTON — A proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10, an underpinning of President Obama’s economic agenda and an issue that Democrats hope to leverage against Republicans in the midterm elections, failed in the Senate on Wednesday.
The vote was 54 to 42, with 60 votes needed to advance the measure.
All but one Republican voted to sustain a filibuster against the measure, saying that the increase would damage the fragile economy and force businesses to cut hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Democrats were mostly united behind the bill.
Senators of both parties took to the floor on Wednesday morning to debate the real-world implications of raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25, a rate that has been unchanged since 2009.
Senator Mike Enzi, Republican of Wyoming, said the 40 percent increase to $10.10 was too large a cost for businesses to bear. “The proposal before the Senate throws cold water on job creation and it adds to the burdens businesses are already facing,” he said. “Instead the Senate should be considering proposals which promote job growth.”
Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, faulted Republicans for not allowing the bill to move forward. “Right now, if you work 40 hours a week in America, in the greatest country in the world, at a federal minimum wage, you make barely over $15,000 a year,” he said. “Think about how crazy that is.”
Mr. Obama was planning to address the vote in a speech from the White House later Wednesday.
Politics were as much a part of the debate as the larger questions of economic impact and the vitality of the middle class. Polls show the public supports an increase. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that two-thirds of the public favors a rise to $10.10.
“I’m confident that if we don’t raise the minimum wage in Congress before the election, the American people are going to speak about this at the ballot box in November,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa. “They’ll hold their elected officials responsible and accountable.”
I wouldn’t be so sure about that if I were Democrats. While polling has shown that a minimum wage increase does indeed have broad public support, there’s basically no evidence that it is the kind of issue that motivates voters, or causes them to support one candidate over an other. In that respect, it’s a high support/low intensity issue much like the public support for enhanced background checks for gun purchases. Much like that issue, I don’t think Democrats should count on it being an issue that will have much of an impact on the midterms.