Republicans Filibuster Minimum Wage Bill in Senate

A proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016, and adjust it to inflation thereafter, was filibustered by Republicans in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

S. 2223, the Minimum Wage Fairness Act, fell six votes short of the 60 it would have needed to overcome a filibuster. Bob Corker (R-TN) was the only Republican to vote for the bill.

The Obama administration strongly supported the measure, arguing that no full-time worker should live in poverty, that the current minimum wage amounts to $14,500 a year at full-time employment, and that because the wage has not kept up with rising costs, it is worth 20 percent less now than it was in the early 1980s.

“Today, Senate obstruction denied an opportunity to raise the minimum wage to a level that can give millions of hardworking Americans a chance at some basic economic security,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a co-sponsor of the bill, in a statement.

The federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour hasn’t changed since 2009. About 28 million workers, the majority of them women, stand to benefit from a pay increase, according to the administration.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, a mother of two working full time is $4,000 below the poverty line if she earns the current minimum wage, but an increase to $10.10 an hour would put her above the poverty line. Women of color are also disproportionately represented in the minimum wage workforce, making up 22 percent of minimum wage workers, compared to 16 percent of workers overall.

The act would have also gradually raised the minimum wage for tipped workers to 70 percent of the federal minimum wage. Tipped workers, who face more than double the poverty rates of the rest of the workforce, have been paid a $2.13 per hour minimum wage since 1991, and about 70 percent of tipped workers are women.

Earlier this month, Republicans also filibustered a bill that would have addressed the gender pay gap between men and women by allowing workers to discuss their salaries and making employers civilly liable for unequal pay. Democrats are hoping to use issues of economic inequality, including the minimum wage and unequal pay between men and women, as a strategy to energize voters in the midterm elections.

The minimum wage bill is not dead yet, however, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) could bring it back up at any time.

“This is a moral issue,” Reid told the New York Times after the vote. “It’s not about who’s going to vote for whom.”

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