- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Senate Republicans on Wednesday filibustered an increase in the minimum wage, halting yet another key item on President Obama’s 2014 agenda and giving both sides talking points heading into the November elections.

Democrats, who orchestrated the vote knowing it would fail, said it proves to voters that Republicans care more about the wealthy than those struggling to get by, and also oppose helping women, who make up a large share of minimum-wage workers.

But Republicans countered that raising the wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs, and do further damage to an economy that, according to the latest statistics, is still struggling more than five years into Mr. Obama’s tenure.

Democrats fell five votes shy of the 60-vote threshold needed to bring the bill to the floor. Just a single Republican — Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee — voted to move ahead with the bill, and even he said it was not because he agreed with the proposal, but said he thought it worthy of debate.

“This shows whose side you’re on,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, as he and fellow Democrats predicted the vote will feed into the rich-versus-poor message Mr. Obama used in his successful 2012 re-election campaign.

The minimum wage increase is one of several major items Mr. Obama laid out in his State of the Union address this year, which also included an extension of unemployment benefits and a boost in infrastructure spending.

Congress last boosted the minimum wage in 2007, in a bill passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by then-President George W. Bush, a Republican.

Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who supported that previous measure, said she wants to see an increase, but thinks a nearly $3 raise is too much. She said it was clear a $10.10 rate can’t pass either the House or Senate, and she’s trying to work out a compromise at a lower number — but said Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democrats’ leader, blocked her.

“Today’s vote is an attempt to score a political point, but it doesn’t move us any closer to raising the minimum wage,” she said. “My focus remains on working together to reach an agreement on a responsible path forward.”

Even some Senate Democrats have said they couldn’t stomach a $10.10 increase, but would be open to a lower rate. However, Mr. Reid flatly rejected any compromise.

“We are not going to compromise on locking people into poverty — $10.10 an hour is the bare minimum,” he said. “We’ll compromise on lots of things, but not the number.”

Those remarks essentially doom the bill’s chances of passing in Congress, and leave it to the realm of politics.

Even without federal action, a number of states have moved to raise the minimum wage within their borders. On Tuesday, Hawaii’s legislature became the latest to approve a hike to $10.10 an hour. Connecticut and Maryland both enacted similar hikes earlier this year.

For his part, anticipating no action by Congress, Mr. Obama announced an executive order requiring all federal contractors to pay workers a $10.10 minimum wage.

Speaking at the White House on Wednesday, the president urged voters to punish Republicans for blocking a national wage hike.

“If there’s any good news here, it’s that Republicans in Congress don’t get the last word on this issue or any issue. You do. The American people, who vote,” Mr. Obama said.

Ben Wolfgang contributed to this report.

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