GOP blocks minimum wage, sick leave proposals
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a push by Democrats to advance proposals on raising the minimum wage and guaranteeing paid sick days.

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayChildren’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Schumer calls for attaching ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance MORE (D-Wash.) sought unanimous consent to get a vote on the two proposals by Oct. 30. One bill would raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2020, while the other would allow employees to earn up to seven paid sick days per year.

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Murray, and ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said Democrats “are very concerned about many Americans today who make few dollars an hour, who don’t have paid sick leave, who are told to go to work at hours that they cannot control.”

But Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGun proposal picks up GOP support House bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Republicans jockey for position on immigration MORE (R-Texas) blocked the effort, saying he did it on behalf of Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the HELP chairman.

Cornyn added that the proposals — as well as a similar request from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) that would give employees more control over their schedule — were a political maneuver by Democrats.

“What we’ve just seen from our friends across the aisle is not designed to get anything actually done. It was a show to try to claim political advantage and to try to create a narrative that simply isn’t borne out by the facts,” he said.

Republicans previously blocked a push by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, to get an increase to the minimum wage included in the budget passed earlier this year.

Paid sick leave legislation could be trickier for Republicans if it were allowed to be brought up for a vote.

A non-binding vote to support giving employees seven days of paid sick leave was included in the budget and divided Senate Republicans.

The party’s four presidential candidates in the Senate — Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Ted Cruz (Texas) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) — voted against the measure. 

But Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Ron Johnson (Wis.) and Rob Portman (Ohio), each of whom face a potentially difficult reelection path, were part of roughly a dozen Senate Republicans who voted for the measure.

Murray hit back at Republicans after Cornyn’s manuever, saying that “it is really disappointing to us that the Republican majority has objected to us bringing these bills forward.”