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Federal Minimum Wage Increase Blocked by Republicans: President Barack Obama Urges Americans to 'Get Fired Up'

First Posted: May 04, 2014 09:32 AM EDT
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The Republicans blocked a bill on Wednesday that could have increased the minimum wage. President Barack Obama and Democrats are furious, but Republicans are holding firm.

The current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour; with an increase over three years, the wage would have been $10.10 an hour. The final vote was 54 to 42; the Democrats needed 60 votes for the bill, which was introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, to overcome a Republican filibuster. The chances of a wage-increase seemed improbable, according to the The Washington Post.

In a change of events, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid, D-Nevada, supported the legislation, but he took a procedural step by voting against it so that he could reintroduce it at a later time. The bill is part of the Democrats' broader "Fair Shot for All" midterm campaign, so they are more than likely and willing to continue pushing the minimum wage bill through the fall, despite the vote.

"By preventing even a vote on this bill, they prevented a raise for 28 million hardworking Americans. They said no to helping millions work their way out of poverty," Obama said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon. "They told Americans like the ones who are here today that you're on your own."

The Republicans argue that the economy is still recovering, and increasing the minimum wage would damage an already fragile system. The Republicans cited an economic growth of 0.1 percent in the first quarter of 2014. Republicans call the minimum wage too expensive and would have preferred to negotiate with the minimum wage bill rather than be forced into a "take it or leave it situation," according to CNN.

Some of the American public are in favor of the minimum wage hike. A March poll by Bloomberg News found that 69 percent of people were in favor of the bill, which was a 4 percent increase from February. In a joint survey conducted by CBS News and New York Times, 62 percent of independents and 86 percent of Democrats were in favor of the minimum wage hike. Meanwhile, 54 percent of Republicans were opposed to the idea.

"Change is happening, whether Republicans like it or not," Obama said. "And so my message to the American people is this: Do not get discouraged by a vote like the one we saw this morning. Get fired up, get organized, make your voices heard," Reuters reported.

A nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the bill would raise the wages of 16.5 million Americans and subsequently propel almost a million people out of poverty. On the other hand, it is estimated that the bill could cost up to one million Americans their jobs because businesses could be unable to afford to pay workers.

In a news conference held on Wednesday, Democrats vowed to reintroduce the bill in November.

"Soon," Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said about the bill.

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