Senate denies working public an up or down vote on living wages
The Republican-controlled Senate smothered a proposed election-year increase in the minimum wage Wednesday, rejecting Democratic claims that it was past time to boost the $5.15 hourly pay floor that has been in effect for nearly a decade.Shoving the sanctity of the "up or down" vote back up Frist's foxhole will be fun come campaign season, but I rather more like the idea of pushing the meme that only "rebellious" Republicans are interested in helping Americans feed and clothe their children.
The 52-46 vote was eight short of the 60 needed for approval and came one day after House Republican leaders made clear they do not intend to allow a vote on the issue, fearing it might pass.
The Senate vote marked the ninth time since 1997 that Democrats there have proposed _ and Republicans have blocked _ a stand-alone increase in the minimum wage. The debate fell along predictable lines.
"Americans believe that no one who works hard for a living should have to live in poverty. A job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. He said a worker paid $5.15 an hour would earn $10,700 a year, "almost $6,000 below the poverty line for a family of three."
...Democrats had conceded in advance that this attempt to raise the minimum wage would fare no better than their previous attempts. At the same time, they have made clear in recent days they hope to gain support in the coming midterm elections by stressing the issue. Organized labor supports the legislation, and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said that contrary to some impressions, most minimum wage workers are adults, not teenagers, and many of them are women.
"When the Democrats control the Senate, one of the first pieces of legislation we'll see is an increase in the minimum wage," said Kennedy.
His proposal would have increased the minimum wage to $5.85 beginning 60 days after the legislation was enacted; to $6.55 one year later; and to $7.25 a year after that. He said inflation has eroded the value of the current $5.15 minimum wage by 20 percent.
With the help of a few rebellious Republicans, House Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee succeeded in attaching a minimum wage increase last week to legislation providing funding for federal social programs. Fearing that the House would pass the measure with the increase intact, the GOP leadership swiftly decided to sidetrack the entire bill.