A Democratic bill to raise the federal minimum wage failed to pass the Senate Wednesday, falling six votes short of the necessary 60 to avoid a filibuster.
Iowa Democratic Sen.Tom Harkin’s Fair Minimum Wage Act would have forced employers to pay their workers at least $10.10 an hour. The current federal minimum stands at $7.25 an hour.
The vote was largely divided among party lines (54-42), with Republicans arguing that mandated wage hikes would put an excessive monetary burden on businesses and would result job loss.
Members of the GOP point to a study by the Congressional Budget Office that projects raising the minimum wage to the bill’s standard would eliminate at least 500,000 jobs from the labor force.
A Wednesday morning report released by the Commerce Department showing the economy grew at just a 0.1 percent rate in the first quarter, bolstered the GOP’s claim that now is not the time to raise the cost of doing business.
The president, who has vowed to make fighting income inequality a defining pillar of his presidency, criticized Republicans for blocking the bill.
“By preventing even a vote on this bill they prevented a raise for 28 million hardworking Americans. They said no to helping millions work their way out of poverty,” President Obama said during a press briefing.
Democrats also warned Republicans that they would face consequences at the ballot box come November if they did not get behind the legislation.
“I’m confident that if we don’t raise the minimum wage in Congress before the election, the American people are going to speak about this at the ballot box in November,” said Harkin. “They’ll hold their elected officials responsible and accountable.”
“We’re not going to compromise on $10.10,” Senate Majority Leader Reid told reporters after the vote. Democrats promised to reintroduce the bill later this year, most likely sooner rather than later, reports Reuters.
However, even if the bill does make it out of the Senate, it is unlikely to pass in the Republican-controlled House.
Recognizing the lack of support on the Hill for hiking the minimum wage, the president and Democrats have focused much of their efforts on campaigning for wage increases on a state and local level.
Since the start of the year, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, West Virginia and the District of Columbia have all approved legislation that will raise their mandated hourly wages above the federal hourly minimum.
On Tuesday, Hawaii was added to that list, passing legislation that will raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour over four years.
And so far in 2014, 34 states have or are now considering hiking their local minimum wage.
Some conservatives fear that Democrats are using the minimum wage as an election season tactic, and that their proposed policies will actually hurt impact the individuals they were intended to help.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called out Democrats, saying: “They don’t even pretend to be serious about jobs anymore.”
He added, “Washington Democrats’ true focus these days seems to be making the far left happy, not helping the middle class.”
Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, the senior Republican on the Joint Economic Committee, noted in a statement following the vote, “Raising the minimum wage creates winners and losers — it will raise the wages of some but result in job losses for many low-income workers.”
He added, “The true problem plaguing impoverished Americans is not low wage rates but a lack of good job opportunities.”
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