An effort to increase the federal minimum wage 40 percent to $10.10 from its current level of $7.25 was filibustered by Republican Senators on Wednesday, blocking its long path to a vote on the Senate floor before it had really begun. The bill’s Democratic sponsors needed at least 60 votes to agree to start debate on the bill, but faced with the GOP filibuster, they could only muster 54, meaning that despite having majority support, the bill failed to advance.
The bill’s failure came as little surprise to anyone who has been following the debate on the minimum wage. There is a profound split between the two parties on the issue, with Republicans claiming that it will destroy jobs while Democrats point to economic research showing that minimum wage increases have little or no effect on overall employment.
The vote held Wednesday was, in large part, a political one, aimed at forcing Republican Senators to put their opposition to the wage increase on their voting records.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), made no attempt to hide the fact that Democrats plan to use votes against raising the minimum wage as a political club. In advance of the vote Reid, who has been relentlessly hammering the Republican Party for its connection to Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists who fund many right-wing political causes, sent out a tweet that said, “The Kochs oppose raising the minimum wage. Just keep that in mind if you’re wondering why some Republican Senators might vote against it.”
Immediately after the vote, Reid again took to Twitter: “Republicans just turned their backs on millions of hardworking Americans who deserve a fair shot,” he wrote. “This debate is not over.”
Republicans on Wednesday bashed the political nature of the vote. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said the vote was “all about trying to make this side of the aisle look bad and hardhearted.”
Indeed, within minutes of the vote, Democrats were using data on minimum wage workers to slam Republicans on a state-by-state basis, noting how many workers in each state would see wages increase under the proposal.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, is not officially dead in the Senate. Reid, in a common procedural move, changed his vote to “no” in order to preserve his right to revisit the measure some time in the future.
President Obama was expected to address the issue of a minimum wage increase in public remarks Wednesday afternoon.
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