Senate Democrats hoped to bring a minimum-wage increase to the floor in December. Then in January. The latest plan was to try again next week, but now that's off, too.
The problem isn't a lack of will; it's a lack of votes
needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.
Senate Democrats have again delayed debating a proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 hourly, postponing work on one of President Barack Obama's top priorities. Democrats had hoped to debate the legislation before the Senate's mid-March recess. Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, the bill's author, said Tuesday they now expect to consider it after lawmakers return in late March. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Republican obstruction on nominations was slowing the chamber's work. But the delay also comes as Democrats seem not to have the 60 votes needed to overcome GOP efforts to scuttle the legislation.
There are currently 55 members of the Senate Democratic caucus. As of now, 54 of them support the minimum-wage increase (all except Arkansas' Mark Pryor). That means, in order for the Senate to be allowed to vote on a popular piece of legislation, it would take just six Republicans to end their party's obstructionism and let the chamber vote yea or nay.
This afternoon, we learned those six votes do not yet exist.
In the meantime, have you noticed the growing group of conservative policymakers who want to lower the minimum wage to zero?
The newest member of the group made his posiiton clear on Friday
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) let loose on his minimum wage views Friday, saying it's not "the government's business" to be setting that policy. [...] "At a time when jobs are at a premium in this country, the last thing you want to be doing is putting policies into place that would kill jobs," Perry said.
Following up on an item
from a month ago, this seems to be an increasingly common position for Republicans to take. For most of the last generation, the political fight over the minimum wage has been fairly narrow -- when to raise, by how much, whether to index it to inflation, etc. -- but as GOP politics in general have moved further to the right, the debate now includes plenty of notable figures who don't think the minimum wage should exist at all.
It's not just Perry -- Sen. Marco Rubio
(R-Fla.), Sen. Lamar Alexander
(R-Tenn.), and Rep. Joe Barton
(R-Texas), among others, have all said recently they're not only opposed to Democratic calls for a wage increase, but they're also comfortable with scrapping the law altogether.
I continue to think Republicans are taking a real risk with this. The GOP seems confident it can get away with blocking wage increases -- though even that's a risky proposition -- but if Republicans become known as the party that opposes the very existence of the minimum wage, it won't do them any favors with the American mainstream.