Harkin: Almost Every Democrat Will Back Minimum-Wage Increase Effort in Senate

The lead sponsor expects nearly the entire caucus to vote yes on cloture, although they may not all sign off on the final bill.

US Democratic Senator from Iowa Tom Harkin speaks about the effects of the government shutdown on health services at the US Capitol in Washington,DC on October 4, 2013 as his counterparts from Maryland Barbara Mikulski (2nd L) and from Minnesota Amy Klobuchar (L) look on. The US government shut down for the first time in 17 years Tuesday after lawmakers failed to reach a budget deal by the end of the fiscal year. The US government shut down for the first time in 17 years on October 1 after lawmakers failed to reach a budget deal by the end of the fiscal year.
National Journal
Elahe Izad
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Elahe Izad
March 31, 2014, 11:10 a.m.

Sen­ate Demo­crats are kick­ing off their 2014 elec­tion-year agenda this week with con­sid­er­a­tion of a bill to raise the fed­er­al min­im­um wage to $10.10. And the le­gis­la­tion’s lead spon­sor says al­most every Demo­crat will vote “yes” on a cru­cial, pro­ced­ur­al vote.

If Demo­crats get the wage bill through a clo­ture vote, it needs just a simple ma­jor­ity for fi­nal pas­sage. All Demo­crats “may not be with us on the fi­nal bill,” Sen. Tom Har­kin, D-Iowa, said on a con­fer­ence call with re­port­ers Monday. “The key is to get over the fili­buster of the Re­pub­lic­ans, and I’m pretty con­fid­ent we’ll have all the Demo­crats on that.”

All ex­cept for one, Har­kin pre­dicts. It is likely that Mark Pry­or of Arkan­sas, who has come out against the pro­pos­al to raise the wage to $10.10, will not join the ranks. But even in that case, Pry­or is not op­posed to any min­im­um wage in­crease. He sup­ports an ef­fort to boost the Arkan­sas rate from $6.25 to $8.50 by 2017.

Har­kin has said the in­cre­ment­al in­crease to the $10.10 rate, to be reached by 2016, is “non­nego­ti­able.”

An­oth­er red-state Demo­crat, Mary Landrieu of Louisi­ana, has said she sup­ports a min­im­um-wage in­crease, but still has con­cerns about the changes to wages for tipped work­ers and the timeline for a wage in­crease. Har­kin’s pro­pos­al would in­crease the fed­er­al tipped wage from $2.13 to 70 per­cent of the reg­u­lar min­im­um wage. And Vir­gin­ia Demo­crat­ic Sen. Mark Warner sup­ports a min­im­um-wage in­crease but like­wise has con­cerns about the timeline for phas­ing in the boost.

Demo­crat­ic Sens. Kay Hagan of North Car­o­lina and Mark Be­gich of Alaska back Har­kin’s bill.

The bill still faces very low odds of ever be­com­ing law. Demo­crats will need at least five Re­pub­lic­ans to vote yes on clo­ture, and that doesn’t look very likely. Sen. John Thune, a mem­ber of the Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship, has said that Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans “are pretty united” against the the wage pro­pos­al. 

“If we don’t get 60 votes on the first vote we’ll con­tin­ue to come back again and again,” Har­kin pledged. “We’re not just go­ing to have one vote and walk away from it. It’s much too im­port­ant for that.”

Even if the wage in­crease makes it out of the up­per cham­ber, it faces dim pro­spects in the House, where Speak­er John Boehner has called it a job killer.

A Con­gres­sion­al Budget Of­fice ana­lys­is found the pro­pos­al would re­duce the num­ber of work­ers in the labor force by 500,000 in 2016, which Demo­crats have pushed back against. CBO also pre­dicted the wage in­crease would lift 900,000 out of poverty.

The Sen­ate will be­gin con­sid­er­a­tion of the bill this week, but a fi­nal vote may not come un­til next week, Har­kin said.

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