By Justin Sink
President Obama on Wednesday called on voters to punish Senate Republicans who earlier in the day blocked a Democratic proposal that would have raised the federal minimum wage.
"If there's any good news here, it's [that] Republicans in Congress don't get the last word on this issue," Obama said. "You do. The American people. The voters."
"Change is happening, whether Republicans in Congress like it or not," he added.
The Senate voted 54-42 to proceed with the legislation, which would have hiked the pay rate from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour, short of the 60 votes necessary.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was the only Republican to vote for the bill, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) voting against the measure so that he could bring it up again and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who opposes the legislation, skipping the vote because of tornado damage in his home state.
Obama accused the Republican lawmakers of telling "Americans that you're on your own" without "even looking them in the eye."
"This is a very simple issue," Obama said. "Either you’re in favor of raising wages for hardworking Americans, or you're not."
The president blasted congressional Republicans for voting more than 50 times to undermine or repeal ObamaCare, but refusing to allow votes on the minimum wage and unemployment insurance.
"That makes no sense," Obama said. "And on top of that, they've blocked our efforts to make sure women make equal pay for equal work."
The president's populist chiding reinforced Democratic desires to hammer the issue ahead of the upcoming midterms. According to CBS Radio's Mark Knoller, it was the 37th time the president has rallied for the minimum wage bill since his State of the Union address.
Obama repeatedly called on supporters to mobilize to push the wage hike through.
"Do not get discouraged by a vote like the one we saw this morning. Get fired up. Get organized. Make your voices heard," Obama said.
"If they keep putting politics ahead of working Americans, you can put them out of office," he added.
Republicans have accused the president and congressional Democrats of intentionally playing politics with the issue, rather than seeking to negotiate an increase at a lower rate that may have a better shot at passing.
“Let’s talk about the 800-pound gorilla here in the Senate chamber,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told the New York Times. “This is all about politics. This is all about trying to make this side of the aisle look bad and hardhearted.”
Republicans also repeatedly highlighted a Congressional Budget Office report that said the bill could cost the economy nearly a million jobs.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has proposed a deal that would raise the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour, which would blunt the impact on employment, according to the CBO.
But on Wednesday, Obama argued his preferred legislation was "good business."
"It means employees are more likely to stay on the job, less turnover," Obama said. "It means that they're going to be more productive and customers see the difference."