Minimum wage bill fails to gain necessary support in Senate

Democrats in the U.S. Senate were unable to drum up the support needed today to vote on legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage – a top priority of President Barack Obama.

The Minimum Wage Fairness Act failed to receive the 60 votes necessary to begin debate on the Senate floor. The Senate voted 54-42 in a test vote.

The Minimum Wage Fairness Act gradually would increase the $7.25 minimum wage to $10.10 over 30 months. Automatic annual increases would follow to adjust for inflation.

Democrats argue that increasing the minimum wage will lift people above the poverty line. Republicans claim the increase would be too expensive for employers and result in lost jobs.

In a survey released in February, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would eliminate 500,000 jobs but also increase the wages of 16.5 million people.

U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., said enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) would decrease in Pennsylvania by 156,000 recipients, including 5,600 in Delaware County. Pennsylvania would save $207.5 million, including $7.5 million in Delco.

“Raising the minimum wage is about basic fairness and economic security for Pennsylvania’s workers and families,” Casey said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., released a statement saying he does not support a policy that could put hundreds of thousands of people out of work.

“Even worse, this bill will hit people who have fewer skills and younger workers the hardest – the very people who most need an opportunity to get into the workforce, get their first job and start their way up the economic ladder,” Toomey said.

Toomey said the Senate needs to move ahead on proposals that will put people to work, citing the Keystone XL pipeline, tax reform and federal worker training programs.

Increasing the minimum wage has been among the chief priorities of Senate Democrats, who are in danger of losing their majority in November’s mid-term elections. Had the bill passed the Senate, it was unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

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