GOP blocks Democrats' minimum wage try in Senate

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 30, 2014 at 5:02 pm •  Published: April 30, 2014
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Polls show that while the overall public favors an increase, Democratic voters strongly support one but Republicans — especially tea party backers — are against it. Powerful interest groups on each side are also against a middle ground, with unions backing a full increase and business groups opposing one.

"We are not going to compromise on locking people into poverty," Reid told reporters, adding later, "We'll compromise, but not on the number."

Republicans in turn point to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which estimated that an increase to $10.10 could cost about 500,000 jobs in 2016. They did not mention that the report also found the boost would mean higher incomes for 16.5 million earners and lift 900,000 people out of poverty.

"To pay for the raises, the money has to come from somewhere," said Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. "So if you like the dollar deal at your fast food, get ready for $1.50."

Instead of a minimum wage increase, Congress should work on bills creating jobs, such as allowing construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, Republicans said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said of the bill's supporters: "These are the same Washington Democrats who have been at the helm of the economy for five-and-a-half years, the same ones who have been bragging about a recovery."

Democrats note that if the minimum reached $10.10 in 2016, it would mark the first time since 1979 that a family of three earning the minimum would have surpassed the federal poverty line. They also argue that the minimum wage, which began in 1938 at 25 cents an hour, has fallen well below its peak value. In 1968 when the minimum was $1.60, it was worth $10.86 in today's buying power.

Other Democratic bills that have hit GOP roadblocks this year would restore expired benefits for the long-term unemployed and pressure employers to pay men and women equally. Democrats plan future votes on bills easing the costs of college and child care.

Harkin's bill would also gradually increase the minimum wage for tipped workers like waiters to 70 percent of the minimum for most other workers. It is currently $2.13 hourly, which can be paid as long as workers' hourly earnings including tips total at least $7.25.

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Associated Press writers Matthew Daly and Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.