Vote on Minimum Wage Hike Fails in Senate
(WASHINGTON) -- The latest blow to President Obama’s domestic agenda came Wednesday afternoon when the Senate failed to advance a measure that would have raised the federal minimum wage to $10.10.
With a vote of 54-42, Senate Republicans shelved one of the key initiatives the president urged Congress to pass in his state of the Union address this year.
During a brief appearance in the East Room Wednesday, Obama blasted Republicans for voting it down.
“We saw this morning a majority of senators saying yes, but almost every Republican saying no to giving America a raise,” the president said.
“Change is happening, whether Republicans in Congress like it or not. So my message … is this: do not get discouraged,” Obama added, urging people to let Republicans know they’re “out of step.”
Here’s a look at five reasons why a $10.10 federal minimum wage may not become reality this year:
1. Supporters Don’t Have the Votes
Sixty votes were needed for the measure to advance in the Senate, and Democrats were unable to get enough Republicans on board.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn, was the lone Republican to vote to advance the measure.
One Democrat missed the vote -- Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who was tending to the damage caused by tornadoes in his home state. Pryor has previously said he thought the increase to $10.10 was too high.
2. Republicans Say It’ll Cost Jobs
The main argument Republicans use in opposing the minimum wage hike is that it will actually decrease the number of jobs in the U.S. Republicans cite a Congressional Budget Office study that found a $10.10 federal minimum wage would reduce total employment by 500,000 workers in the second half of 2016.
“Raising the minimum wage by 40 percent will not grow the economy. It will not create jobs. It will do the opposite,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said on the Senate floor.
Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wy., said the measure would “shut the employment door on the very individuals they’re trying to help.”
But that same CBO study also says that 16.5 million people would see an increase in their earnings if a $10.10 minimum wage went into effect.
3. The GOP Sees It as a Political Ploy
Republicans see the Democratic push to raise the minimum wage as merely “political theater” to demonize conservatives during the mid-term elections.
“Let's talk about the 800 pound gorilla here in the Senate chamber. The truth is the president and [Senate] Majority Leader [Harry] Reid, they don’t expect this bill to pass because they actually are very intelligent people and they know the facts,” Cornyn said Wednesday.
“This is all about politics. This is about trying to make this side of the aisle look bad and hard hearted and to try to rescue this midterm election coming up in November because they see the president's approval rating going down. They see a number of midterm races for the senate in play and they've got to do something,” Cornyn said. “They're desperate. Obamcare didn't work out like they thought.”
Even if Republicans continue to cry foul, a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 49 percent of people polled aligned with the Democratic party views when it came to raising the minimum wage. Thirty-three percent said their opinion on whether the minimum wage should be raised was closer to that of Republicans.
4. Meet the Kochs
Or at least that’s what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says. Reid blasted the billionaire conservative Koch brothers on the Senate floor ahead of the vote, saying they are at fault if the measure derailed.
“If Americans are searching for an answer why they would refuse to raise the minimum wage, they should look no further than the Republicans' billionaires benefactors, I repeat, billionaire benefactors the Koch brothers,” Reid said. “Even though 75 percent of Americans support this legislation and our economy stands to profit from a wage increase, the will of the Koch brothers seems to be the top priority of my Republican colleagues.”
On Tuesday, Americans for Prosperity, one of the groups financially backed by the Koch brothers, urged senators to vote against the measure.
“When it comes time for the Koch brothers to play the role of Santa Claus, republicans should know that Charles and David are making a list and checking it twice, probably more than that,” Reid said.
The Club for Growth also encouraged senators to vote against the bill.
5. It’s Going Nowhere in the House
Even if Senate Democrats had all their members vote for the measure plus peel off five Republicans to clear a procedural hurdle, a minimum wage hike likely has no momentum in the House of Representatives.
House Speaker John Boehner shot down the president’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 after the State of the Union.
“When it comes to the federal minimum wage, listen, I used to be an employer. When you raise the cost of something, you get less of it. And we know from increases in the minimum wage in the past that hundreds of thousands of low-income Americans have lost their jobs,” Boehner said in January. “So the very people the president purports to help are the ones who are going to get hurt by this. When you look at African-Americans and Hispanics, they're the people who never have a chance to get on the economic ladder. It's bad policy, and it will hurt the very people the president purports to want to help.”
Instead, Boehner says the Senate should focus on passing bills to increase the number of jobs in this country.
“I've got a stack of better ideas, and they're the stacks of jobs bills that we've sent over to the United States Senate that they ought to be taking up and they ought to be passing,” Boehner said Tuesday. “The president should pick up his phone and call the Senate leaders to move these House-passed jobs bills that would provide better jobs for the American people, more jobs and a higher standard of living.”
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