Low wage workers take part in a protest organized by the Coalition for a Real Minimum Wage in New York, May 30, 2013.
Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

Senate GOP kills minimum wage increase

The outcome of minimum-wage fight on Capitol Hill wasn’t surprising, but it was nevertheless disappointing for the millions of low-income U.S. workers hoping for a raise.
A proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 died in the Senate on Wednesday, when Democrats failed to gather the 60 votes required to bring it to an up-or-down vote. […]
Even if the proposed minimum wage hike cleared the Senate, there it was little chance it would ever receive a hearing in the Republican-controlled House. Yet recent polling shows growing popular support for raising the minimum wage, making Wednesday’s vote into a political win for the Democrats. Nearly the full Senate Republican caucus is now on record opposing a wage hike which most Americans support – a fact which [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid] has not shied away from since the vote. In a press conference following the bill’s failure, he blamed the billionaire businessmen, Charles and David Koch.
“They’re fighting for billionaires,” he said. “We’re fighting for people who are struggling to make a living.”
The final Senate roll call is online here. Note, the official final tally was 54 to 42, but it was 55-41 before Reid had to switch his vote for procedural reasons. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee was the only Republican to vote with the majority, not because he supports a wage hike – he was likely to vote against it – but because he thought it was a debate worth having.
Indeed, it’s worth remembering that what transpired on the Senate floor this afternoon wasn’t a vote on whether to raise the minimum wage; it was a vote on whether to end a Republican filibuster and begin a debate on raising the minimum wage. The GOP minority – including “moderates” like Susan Collins and Mark Kirk – blocked wage increase, but in the process, they also rejected the World’s Most Deliberative Body from even debating the issue.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the lead sponsor of the bill, told reporters today, “I can guarantee you we will be back on this issue.”
I don’t doubt that he’s correct, though it’s hard to even imagine when Congress will agree to an increase.
Republicans show no interest in budging on the issue, and with the party poised to make gains in the 2014 midterm, the earliest Americans can expect progress on the issue is 2017, barring an unexpected boost in progressive turnout later this year.
In theory, GOP lawmakers are risking a public backlash by uniting against such a popular economic issue, but Republicans work from the assumption that those struggling most probably won’t vote – and those assumptions are generally true.
Those hoping to see movement on the issue will have to look to “blue” states, where there’s been steady progress.
President Barack Obama is commending Hawaii lawmakers for raising the state’s minimum wage to $10.10.
The president says in a statement released Wednesday that Republicans in Congress should follow Hawaii’s lead and raise the minimum wage for 28 million Americans. Later Wednesday, U.S. Senate Republicans blocked a bill seeking a federal minimum-wage increase.
The Hawaii measure was approved by legislators Tuesday. Gov. Neil Abercrombie has indicated he will likely approve it.
The increase from $7.25 is the first since 2007 and would be phased in over four years.