Senate Republicans on Wednesday deployed a filibuster to block a White House proposal to increase the U.S. minimum wage by $2.85 to $10.10 per hour, thereby denying President Barack Obama an important election-year policy achievement.
With mid-term elections scheduled for November 2014, the defeat of the Bill on the floor of the Senate, by a vote of 54 ‘ayes’ and 42 ‘nays’ – short of the 60 votes required for passage – could spell trouble for Democrats.
Although polls have shown that more than 60 per cent of Americans support raising the minimum wage, a measure that Mr. Obama promised in his state-of-the-union address in January, all Senate Republicans but one, Robert Corker of Tennessee, voted against holding a debate on the Bill and getting it passed.
While he appeared frustrated with the proceedings on Capitol Hill and slammed Republicans for preventing “a raise for 28 million hard-working Americans,” he emphasised that several U.S. States had taken the matter into their hands and raised the minimum wage through State Legislatures.
“Now the good news is, outside of Washington folks aren’t waiting. While Republicans have been deciding whether to even allow a minimum wage bill to even come up for a vote, you’ve seen 10 States and the District of Columbia go ahead and raise theirs,” he said, praising Hawaii and Maryland for most recently undertaking the hike.
Speaking to The Hindu, Gary Burtless, economist and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution here underscored the relative importance of the minimum wage policy when he said, “An extension of unemployment benefits would be helpful to people at the very bottom of the income distribution. However, even if we restored the unemployment program to its [generous level during] 2013, we would only help about 2 million families over the next year. The minimum wage hike would improve the incomes of slightly more than 16 million workers and a slightly smaller number of families.”
However although Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York said the Bill may be reintroduced “Sometime soon,” reports suggest that it is unlikely to have a significant chance of getting passed this year.
For the Democrats the Bill represented a key component of its broader ‘Fair Shot for All’ midterm campaign, a platform that aimed to project the party as a supporter of the common man, in opposition to Republican pandering to special interests.
As part of this campaign Democrats have also focused attention on Bills that would “extend emergency unemployment insurance and address paycheck disparities between men and women, as well as a bipartisan manufacturing jobs Bill,” reports said.