Reid delays action on minimum wage
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday delayed action for a few weeks on a bill to increase the minimum wage, a top political and policy priority of the White House and congressional Democrats this election year.
Reid blamed the delay on Republican "obstruction" that he said has clogged up the Senate calendar.
The move comes on the heels of a Congressional Budget Office report that found the wage hike could lift 900,000 people out of poverty but also lead to the loss of 500,000 jobs.
Democrats previously targeted March 6 for a vote on the bill written by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and index future hikes to the inflation rate.
Reid now expects to get to it in late March or April.
Republicans oppose the measure, so it's unlikely Democrats will be able to get the 60 votes needed to overcome procedural hurdles. Reid may not even have the support of all 53 Democrats and two independents who caucus with them.
While most Democrats support the bill, at least two centrist Democrats either oppose it or may want to change it. Republicans are sure to seize on any defections.
Arkansas Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor is against the increase, according to aides and senators involved in the issue. Pryor, who is facing a tough re-election, may be the most endangered Democrat in the Senate and he regularly votes against his caucus.
Another threatened Democrat, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, told CNN there is "broad base support" in her state for a hike in the minimum wage. But she may want to change the Harkin bill in order to boost wages for service-industry workers.
"I am supporting an increase in the minimum wage. I have not committed to this specific bill," Landrieu said. "I'm talking with others, Republicans and Democrats, about the tip wage in particular. For many of our industries, that's important."
Republicans argue an increase in the minimum wage would lead to job losses, as the CBO reported.
"CBO indicated we would lose from 500,000 to a million jobs with the minimum wage increase our friends on the other side are recommending," warned Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who is facing his own re-election challenges in Kentucky.
"Couple that with CBO's estimate of 2.3 million fewer jobs created under Obamacare and you've got a pretty big hit on an economy that is already suffering from way to much joblessness," McConnell said. The 2.3 million figure cited by McConnell has been contested.
Another GOP senator up for re-election, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, echoed those concerns.