The House on Friday rejected a Democratic push to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10, shooting down one of President Obama’s priorities from his State of the Union speech.
The 233-184 defeat also exposed divisions within the Democratic Party. Where Mr. Obama called for a hike from the current $7.25 to $9 an hour, congressional Democrats pushed for a $10.10 rate.
But they couldn’t muster unity even within their own ranks. Six Democrats from conservative-leaning districts voted against the wage increase, as did every single Republican who was present.
“We need jobs out there. The best approach right now is to get federal spending under control and government out of the way of the nation’s job creators,” said Rep. John Kline, Minnesota Republican, who led the opposition.
Mr. Obama’s call for a hike to $9 an hour reportedly caught labor advocates off guard. They had been working towards the $10.10 figure.
The White House has not weighed in on the $10.10 raise.
Democrats said a wage increase would have applied to 30 million workers and said raising the rate would have paid for itself because while businesses would have had to pay more, they would have seen customers with more money to spend.
Their measure would have raised the wage incrementally over three years, and then set it on a path to automatically increase thereafter. The Democrats’ legislation would also have raised the rate for tip-workers, whose minimum wage has been $2.13 an hour for the last two decades.
“While corporate profits soar, while the Dow breaks new records and while the CEOs take home 380 times the wages of average workers, the lowest-paid workers are falling behind,” said Rep. George Miller, California Democrat.
The vote came as part of the debate on a House bill to streamline job-training programs.
That bill passed on a 215-202 vote, with just two Democrats joining the GOP effort, and 14 Republicans defecting to vote against it. Democrats said Republicans missed a chance to write a bipartisan bill.