By Alexander Bolton - 04/30/14 06:00 AM EDT
The Democrats’ minimum wage bill is set to die on the Senate floor Wednesday.
Despite an intense push by President Obama and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans haven’t budged and will reject the measure that would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The procedural roll call to advance the bill is expected to fail on a party-line vote, short of the 60 votes needed.
Democrats could bring the bill back to the floor many times between now and the midterm elections, but the small window for a bipartisan compromise or a GOP capitulation has all but shut. The GOP-led House, meanwhile, is adamantly opposed to the Senate measure.
Obama prominently featured a minimum wage increase in his State of the Union address, calling on Congress to give “America a raise.”
The president on Wednesday will deliver a speech on the minumum wage.
During this Congress, some Senate Republicans have felt the need to move high-profile Democratic bills through the upper chamber, including immigration reform and, more recently, an extension of jobless benefits. Both are sitting in the House, where action is unlikely.
But instead of relying on the House to be the backstop on minimum wage, Senate Republicans — who need to pick up six seats to claim the majority this fall — are willing to kill the bill themselves.
Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, said Tuesday, “Most of the Republicans are pretty united on this. It’s bad for the economy. It’s bad for jobs.”
Democrats say Republicans will pay a price for blocking the legislation and are suggesting there will be more votes in the coming months.
“More and more people are going to be talking about this in local communities,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the bill’s sponsor. “I think the pressure’s going to mount.”
Thune cited a Bloomberg poll showing 57 percent of the public views the potential loss of 500,000 jobs, a figure projected by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), as an unacceptable tradeoff for raising the minimum wage to a $10.10 hourly rate.
The CBO dealt a huge blow to the legislation, the centerpiece of the Democrats’ 2014 agenda, when it warned in February of its impact on jobs.
Senate Democratic aides dismissed the projection, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has worked for weeks to rally his caucus around the $10.10 wage threshold. Initially, Obama backed a hike to $9, then embraced the higher figure after being prodded by congressional Democrats.
Reid initially said the Senate would consider the bill in early March. Instead, it languished while a coalition of labor unions and liberal groups intensely lobbied centrist Democratic and Republican senators.
The impact of the lobbying effort on Republicans has been hampered by Obama’s low approval ratings. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday showed the president’s approval rating has fallen to 41 percent, a 5-point drop compared to March.
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), one of the chamber’s most vulnerable incumbents, has said he doesn’t back the bill.
Centrists, such as Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.), questioned the details of the legislation, such as the $10.10 wage floor, the timing of its implementation and how it would affect workers who rely on tips. Other Democrats stopped short of embracing Harkin’s bill.
On Wednesday, Reid expects every member of his caucus except Pryor to support advancing the minimum wage bill. Pryor will miss the vote because he plans to stay in Arkansas this week to help repair damage caused by severe storms.
Carper, who advocated for raising the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour instead of $10.10, told The Hill on Tuesday he will vote with his fellow Democrats to advance the minimum wage bill.
Reid said Tuesday he would not make any specific promises to Republicans on amendments until the Senate voted to take up the bill, a move that all but guarantees unanimous Republican opposition to the procedural motion.
“All we’re asking is that we are allowed to get on the bill. Republicans use all kinds of procedural excuses to not allow us to get on the bill,” he said.
On Monday evening, Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) was the only Republican who said he would vote to begin debate on the minimum wage proposal. But on Tuesday, he said he would reconsider unless Reid relented on amendments.
Corker said if Reid doesn’t allow votes on GOP amendments, “then there’s really no debate.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R), who is up for reelection in liberal-leaning Maine, reached out to colleagues this month in an effort to find a compromise that would raise the minimum wage to a level below $10.10. The talks failed to yield a deal.
Collins said she would not support the motion to move to the Democratic bill if Reid did not promise to allow votes on Republican amendments.
“The Democrats’ minimum wage problem is that the CBO has said if you raise the minimum wage 40 percent, then you’re going to kill a half million to a million jobs,” said Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas), who predicted that Wednesday’s procedural vote would fall short.