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Reid Delays Minimum Wage Vote as Dem Senators Waver

Image: Reid Delays Minimum Wage Vote as Dem Senators Waver

By Sandy Fitzgerald   |   Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014 04:57 PM

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he is delaying a debate and vote on legislation to raise the minimum wage, but he is adamant that he won't consider plans to hike the pay to less than $10.10 an hour, even to attract reluctant Democrats fearing an election-year backlash to sign the bill.

Reid is blaming the delay on Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage, reports The Hill, but he is also having difficulty unifying his own caucus in the discussion.

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Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, considered one of the more vulnerable Democratic incumbents, says he does not support the legislation, which is now scheduled for discussion after the March recess, which runs from March 14-24.

Pryor has said taking the wage standard to $10.10 is "too much, too fast," but may support a smaller increase.

Two other vulnerable Senate Democrats, Louisiana's Mary Landrieu and Mark Warner of Virginia, both of whom are also facing tough re-election bids this year, also expressed concerns about raising the federal minimum wage all the way to $10.10, reports Bloomberg Businessweek.

Landrieu and Pryor are both running for re-election where Obama lost by double-digit figures in 2012.

Warner said Tuesday there should be an increase in the minimum wage, but he thinks "there's a valid debate about amount and timing."

Landrieu, like Warner, said she also supports a minimum wage raise, but she has not committed to the $10.10 level, and she would like to see a wage standard for employees who earn tips.

Reid claims Republican obstruction continues, and Democrats have "also been hampered by trying to get an extension of unemployment benefits. The slowdown has been a result of continued obstruction."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, citing last week's Congressional Budget Office report  that said the planned raise could cost as many as a million jobs nationwide, said Tuesday he hopes the debate doesn't go far, reports The Washington Times.

"The last thing we need to be doing right now in our country is passing legislation that destroys even more jobs," McConnell said.

But Reid vows to move forward with the bill, reports The Hill, even if Democrats keep opposing it. He also is rejecting a compromise offered by Democratic Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, who called for a rate lower than the $10.10 per hour President Barack Obama endorsed in the State of the Union address in January.

The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour hasn't been increased since 2009. Some states, however, have voted in raises of their own.

"People have a right to vote however they want," Reid said of the federal measure. "But it makes it a little tougher [to oppose] around here when you have companies like Gap who have 65,000, 75,000 employees who’ve just done it. They’ve raised the minimum wage already. It’s happening all over the country."

The debate delay will also allow labor unions to have more time to organize support for the proposed minimum wage increase, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide, who spoke anonymously to Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins said she has an alternative plan that both parties could possibly support.

"I haven’t settled on particular numbers," she said. "I’m just trying to figure out what would do the most, in terms of not creating disincentives for employers to create jobs, and to help some of the low-income families."

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he supports an increase to $10.10 per hour, but he will meet with Collins and other lawmakers to hammer out an agreement.

"I’m very much in favor of raising 1 million people out of poverty, but I don’t want to sacrifice jobs,” Manchin said.

While the Senate's discussion on the minimum wage is on hold, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she will push for an effort to force a vote on the issue. House Democratic leaders, along with other lawmakers and business owners are planning a joint announcement at a press event Wednesday, reports The Times.

But the measure may not get far in the GOP-controlled House, where Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner, oppose the measure.

Pelosi is pushing for a "discharge petition," reports The Times, which allows a House minority party to get action on their proposals. If a majority of members of Congress sign the petition, House leadership has to bring up the legislation, but such measures typically do not gain enough signatures from members of the chamber's majority party.

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