The Senate on April 30 voted against a Democrat-sponsored bill that would gradually increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.
The bill failed to get to the 60 votes needed to open debate on the floor, failing 55-42. Only one Republican joined Democrats in voting to advance the bill.
“By preventing even a [final] vote on this bill they prevented a raise for 28 million hardworking Americans,” President Obama said in a statement. “They said no to helping millions work their way out of poverty.”
Obama and other Democrats noted that polls show a strong majority of Americans support raising the minimum wage. Republicans argue that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would damage the nation’s already fragile economic recovery.
However, Senate Democrats countered that the Republican position would hurt American workers struggling to make ends meet.
The development comes as local lawmakers have weighed raising the minimum wage in their states. In Washington D.C., Mayor Vincent C. Gray signed a bill in January that would raise the minimum wage for all District workers to $9.50 per hour starting that month. Gray also endorsed a bill that was introduced last year by the D.C. Council that would raise minimum wage to $11.50 by July 2016.
Civil rights organizations including the National Urban League have also called on Congress to pass legislation raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2016. The National Urban League accelerated its advocacy on the issue with a petition on its website appealing to the public to join in sending a message to Congress.
In a news conference following the vote, Democrats vowed to reintroduce the bill later this year, including a wage equity bill that was also blocked by Senate Republicans in April.