A bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour stalled in the Senate on Wednesday, an expected outcome that Democrats were already planning to use as a weapon against Republicans in the midterm elections.
The Senate held a procedural vote on the bill early Wednesday afternoon, and the bill failed to advance in a 54-42 vote. Sixty votes were needed to keep it alive – meaning at least five Republicans needed to vote with Democrats, but Republicans were largely unified against the increase. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was the only Republican to vote with Democrats.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has said an increase in the minimum wage is needed to give people a "fair shot at the American dream." (AP)
Democrats were already anticipating the bill's failure. Later Wednesday, President Obama planned to give a speech about the need to boost the minimum wage from its current $7.25 an hour, and was likely to blame Republicans for blocking this increase.
Senate Democrats said the GOP was preventing working Americans from receiving a living wage.
"An increase in the minimum wage obviously won't make a millionaire of anyone, but it will ensure that each full time working American receives a wage they can live on and that will give them a fighting chance to get ahead in the economy," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday. "Every hard-working American should have the opportunity to put a roof over their head and that of their family, and every full-time employee should have a fair shot at the American dream."
But Republicans held firm against the bill, and said it would amount to a tax hike on small companies that would threaten job creation at a time when many are questioning the strength of the economy.
"With more than 10 million Americans unemployed, the last thing this body should be doing is considering legislation that would jeopardize jobs," Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said during Tuesday's debate.
"A minimum wage hike during such a weak economic recovery wouldn't result in job gains; it would result in job losses," he added. "It is simple: When you make something more expensive, people can afford less of it. When you drive up the cost of hiring workers, employers can't afford to hire as many of them, especially when you consider that many of those who employ minimum wage workers are small business owners."
For several weeks, Republicans in both the House and Senate have said Congress should be focusing on job creation, instead of policies like the minimum wage and unemployment insurance that make it easier for people to cope with not having a job. On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Obama's decision to delay the Keystone XL pipeline is the latest example of how Democrats are preventing lasting job creation.
"If they are ready to get serious about job creation, then there are some easy ways to demonstrate that to the American people," McConnell said. "For starters, they can stop pushing legislation that would cut rather than create jobs, and they can stop blocking projects such as Keystone--a project that almost everyone knows will create jobs."