WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic bill on Wednesday that would boost the federal minimum wage, handing a defeat to President Barack Obama on a vote that is sure to reverberate in this year’s congressional elections.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, said the bill would have provided Americans with “a fair shot.”
The Minimum Wage Fairness Act (SB 2223) would have increased the minimum wage in three steps from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. The increase would be 95 cents per hour in each of three years, and would then be adjusted annually for inflation.
The bill also would have increased the federal minimum cash wage for workers who receive tips by raising it until it equals 70 percent of the federal minimum wage of other workers.
The vote was 54-42 in favor of allowing debate on the measure to proceed, six votes short of the 60 needed to prevail. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., was the only voting Republican to cross party lines to vote in favor of the bill.
“I’m disappointed that Republicans in the Senate blocked a vote on the Minimum Wage Fairness Act today, which would have increased Pennsylvania’s GDP by over $1 billion and added thousands of jobs,” Casey said.
“I voted for this bill because raising the minimum wage is about basic fairness and economic security for workers and families across Pennsylvania,” he said.
Republicans against the bill say raising minimum wage would be too expensive for employers and cost jobs. Republicans also cited a February study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that estimated the increase to $10.10 could eliminate about 500,000 jobs — but also envisioned higher income for 16.5 million low-earning people.
“Washington Democrats’ true focus these days seems to be making the far left happy, not helping the middle class,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Casey said an increase in minimum wage would result in the creation of more than 3,000 jobs in the state and benefit more than 500,000 workers.
He also said the increase would result in a reduction in the reliance of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.
The senator provided a table that shows a county-by-county breakdown of how an increase in minimum wage would reduce the need for SNAP. The increase would result in a reduction 156,052 people on SNAP in Pennsylvania, saving $207.5 million.
In Luzerne County, a wage increase would result in a reduction of 4,700 people in SNAP, saving $6.24 million. A total of $3.73 million would be saved in Lackawanna County, with 2,800 no longer needing SNAP.
Casey said he hoped the Senate will revisit the issue and pass a minimum wage increase that would boost wages and create jobs in Luzerne County and Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“I don’t think that either party can escape the reality of what life like is for a working family is today,” Casey said. “At the minimum, we should give them the basic fair shot that all of us expect as Americans,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.