Senate Republicans successfully blocked a key Democratic proposal on Wednesday to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
Led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., all but one GOP senator voted to sustain a filibuster against the measure, which failed to reached the needed 60-vote threshold.
Democrats have rallied for the hike for months, citing a non-partisan report that shows it would lift nearly 1 million Americans out of poverty.
But GOP opponents of the idea point to the same congressional report, which shows a $10.10 pay rate could potentially reduce employment by approximately 500,000 workers over the next three years.
Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell called the proposal an “ideological adventure.”
He this measure is more about energizing the liberal wing of the Democratic Party than helping the country’s fragile economic recovery.
“The clearest proof of that is today’s vote—on a bill that could cost about 17,000 jobs in Kentucky alone and potentially as many as a million nationwide,” said McConnell. “But Senate Democrats don’t seem to care. They don’t seem to care that about six-in-ten Americans oppose a bill like this, if it means losing hundreds of thousands of American jobs.”
Asked about those claims, a McConnell spokesman pointed to a Bloomberg poll that shows 57 percent of Americans saying a tradeoff between job losses and a wage hike is unacceptable. That same survey, however, finds 69 percent favor raising the wage overall.
On the job numbers, the senator’s office said those statistics are based on a study by The Employment Policies Institute, a non-profit think-tank estimates up to 17,300 fewer jobs will be created as a result of a $10.10 wage hike.
Raising the pay of American workers has been a centerpiece of President Obama’s economic agenda this year, and one that unites Democratic moderates and liberals.
Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth says McConnell’s vote demonstrates the senior senator doesn’t understand how most Kentuckians live or the benefits for the state.
“Mitch fails to understand how potentially important raising the minimum wage is to the entire economy of Kentucky,” said Yarmuth. “Not just to the people making that little, but we’re talking about $664 million of additional income in Kentucky if you raise the minimum wage to $10.10. You’re talking about enormous economic impact for the commonwealth, and when put that much money into the economic you generate additional money and jobs.”
Yarmuth’s office cited a report by the Economic Policy Institute for their numbers, but the congressman told WFPL beyond think tanks, states that have raised the minimum wage are laboratories that show higher pay rates don’t kill economic activity or employment opportunities.
Outside of Washington maneuvering, the minimum wage has been embraced by McConnell’s likely Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, on the campaign trail.
This week she joined a national bus tour during a stop in Lexington, Ky., where she scolded the GOP leader for opposing the bill while voting to raise his own pay. And as McConnell was leading a filibuster of the minimum wage, the Grimes campaign released a new web ad jabbing the senator’s remarks that bringing jobs to the state wasn’t his responsibility.
But McConnell appears prepared to withstand those attacks along with his GOP caucus, and he is pushing back with his own economic narrative.
“If this is the Democrats’ idea of a recovery, the people in my state at least aren’t terribly impressed,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “They’re ready to turn the page from the liberal playbook that just hasn’t worked. It’s clearer every day that the D.C. liberal establishment is completely out of ideas.”