Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moved to hold a vote this week on increasing the federal minimum wage.
The vote will be a major test of unity for Senate Democrats, who have made the wage hike central to their populist agenda for the midterm elections.
Some vulnerable Democrats up for reelection have expressed concern about the wage increase, citing a Congressional Budget Office report that Harkin’s bill would harm job growth. Some of them have come out in support of a smaller increase to $9 an hour proposed by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
If Democrats stuck together, they’d need at least five Republicans to vote with them to advance the measure.
But Republicans are unified against it, which has put pressure on Democrats to minimize defections in their 55-member caucus.
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) has said he’ll vote against the increase to $10.10 per hour, but other vulnerable Democrats up for reelection have signaled they will support it.
Most Democrats are insisting on the $10.10 wage level because they say it would lift all full-time workers out of poverty.
Reid had said he wanted to hold votes on that legislation earlier this month, but senators weren’t able to get to it before a two-week Easter recess.
The Democratic leader said Republicans are using misdirection by attacking him in political ads instead of debating real issues such as the minimum wage. Republicans don’t care about those in poverty, Reid added, because it doesn’t help their “billionaire benefactors,” businessmen David and Charles Koch.
“Apparently the Kochs think $10.10 an hour is too much,” Reid said. “They refuse to allow millions of Americans the opportunity to get out of poverty.”
Even if Democrats get enough votes to raise the minimum wage and index further increases to inflation, the House leaders are unlikely to allow a vote on the bill.
— This story was updated at 4:50 p.m.