April 30, 2014
Senate Republicans have blocked an election-year Democratic bill that would have raised the federal minimum wage.
The bill would have gradually increased the current $7.25 hourly minimum wage to $10.10 an hour over 30 months. Democrats say it would have helped millions of low-income families, while Republicans argue that it would have raised employers' costs and reduced jobs.
The vote was 54-42 in favor of allowing debate on the measure, six short of the 60 needed to prevail.
U.S. Senator Tim Kaine released the following statement:
“Today, I voted to advance legislation to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016, which could give nearly 750,000 Virginians a raise. I’m discouraged that many of my Senate colleagues chose to block a bill with such broad, bipartisan support from the American public. Raising the minimum wage is about giving hard-working people a chance at economic mobility. Millions of Americans who work full time making minimum wage and support a family live under the poverty level. This legislation would help those hard-working Americans lift themselves out of poverty and earn wages they can spend in their communities, stimulating economic activity and job creation. The American people – Democrats, Republicans and Independents – are telling us to do the right thing and ensure no one working full time is stuck living in poverty. I'm sorry we missed this opportunity today.”
Supporters note that the minimum wage's buying power has fallen. It reached its peak value in 1968, when it was $1.60 hourly but was worth $10.86 in today's dollars.
The legislation is opposed by business groups including the National Council of Chain Restaurants and the International Franchise Association. The National Restaurant Association has hundreds of members at the Capitol this week lobbying lawmakers on several issues, including opposition to a higher minimum wage.
The minimum wage was first enacted in 1938 and set at 25 cents.
Congress has passed nine laws slowly increasing it, including one each decade since the 1980s. The minimum has been $7.25 since 2009.