US Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a hotly-contestedmeasure to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, smotheringPresident Barack Obama's priority effort to improve pay for working-class
Americans.A united Democratic front convinced just one Republican, Bob Corker, to back themeasure, and with a vote count of 54-42, it failed to earn the 60 votes necessary toovercome blocking tactics and begin debate on the bill.Democrats hope the emotional issue will propel supporters to the polls inNovember's mid-term elections, when Obama's party will find itself in a tough battleto hold on to the Senate.Even though the bill had little chance of passing a divided Congress, Democratsseek to capitalize on the effort, painting Republicans as out-of-touch elites
unperturbed that those who work 40 hours per week at the current minimum wageof $7.25 still live in poverty."They're back in the 19th century saying we shouldn't do this," Democratic SenatorChuck Schumer said.
"We will bring this bill to the floor again and again and again... and sooner or laterwe will get it done."Democrats say hiking the wage would benefit 28 million Americans, bring millionsout of poverty, ease reliance on federal aid programs, and pump billions of dollarsinto the economy.Republicans, citing the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, argue the movewould slash between 500,000 and one million jobs. Some have said hiking the wage
to $10.10 was too hefty an increase."We all want to see hardworking American families work their way toward the
American dream. But we're not going to be able to do that with the federalgovernment setting wages," said Senate Republican John Cornyn.The vote came on the same day the Republican-controlled House of Representatives
held a Budget Committee hearing on progress in the war on poverty, promptingSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid to blast the "Republicans' theater of the absurd.""Republicans have fashioned themselves for years as the defenders of the economy,"Reid said before the vote."How shocking then that Senate Republicans are not supportive of legislation toincrease the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. What is preventing my Republicancolleagues from giving working Americans a fair shot?"Democrat Edward Markey noted on the Senate floor that the minimum wage hasbeen raised 10 times since the 1930s, most recently during the presidency ofRepublican George W. Bush.
But with low-income families in 2012 earning less than they did in 1989, accountingfor inflation, and the top percent of earners seeing incomes skyrocket by 86 percent,Markey said there was growing inequality in the US economy.
"The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. That's the system we have right nowunless we take action," he warned.