A Democratic bill to raise the federal minimum wage failed in a key procedural vote in the Senate on Wednesday. The defeat was expected, but that did not deter President Obama and Senate Democrats who have pledged to make it an issue in the 2014 elections.
Hours after the vote, President Obama lashed out against Republican lawmakers for blocking the legislation, citing polling that shows a majority of Americans support a hike in the minimum wage.
In remarks at the White House, he said Americans shouldn't be deterred by the vote and urged voters to pressure GOP lawmakers to embrace raising the minimum wage, which was increased to $7.25 in 2008."
"If your member of Congress doesn't support raising the minimum wage, you got to let them know they are out of step, and if they keep putting politics ahead of working Americans, you'll put them out of office," Obama said.
Senate Democrats also were quick to use the legislative setback as an opportunity to make their argument for keeping the upper chamber in their hands.
"Today we saw a clear distinction between what we're fighting for, we Democrats, and the Republicans, what they're fighting for. They're fighting for the billionaires. We're fighting for people who are struggling to make a living," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., after the vote.
Democrats needed 60 votes to move forward with legislation that would gradually raise in three phases the hourly federal minimum wage to $10.10. Democrats fell five votes short of the 60 votes necessary to move forward.
"This is not the only time that you will see the Senate vote on the minimum wage bill this year. We'll be back again and again, and we'll keep trying until we get this to the president's desk," said Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, a chief sponsor of the bill.
Republicans oppose the wage hike because they counter it could slow hiring at a time of sluggish job growth, and they contend Democrats are only using the wage bill to seek a political advantage in this year's midterm elections.
The minimum wage increase is part of an economic agenda that Senate Democrats are promoting this year that they say will help boost the middle class. A bill to address pay equity between men and women likewise failed on a procedural vote, and upcoming legislation to promote college affordability and cut tax breaks for wealthy Americans is likely to meet the same fate.