So Senate Republicans just successfully filibustered the Dem push for a minimum wage hike to $10.10 per hour, blocking it from even proceeding to debate. Every Senate Republican except for Bob Corker voted No, and every Dem except for Mark Pryor voted Yes.
A few quick points about this.
First, let’s hope that the headlines described what happened here accurately. The New York Times headline puts it this way: “Republican-Led Filibuster Blocks Minimum Wage Bill in Senate.” Yes, that’s what happened. But McClatchy puts it this way: “Senate stalls minimum wage increase.” Nah, not really. See, what happened is that Republicans filibustered it.
Second, every red state Dem — aside from Mark Pryor — voted Yes, despite predictions of possible defections. Dems are united behind the idea that the push for a minimum wage hike is a political plus in red states. And even Pryor is today circulating an op ed he wrote for Arkansas papers in which he called for a hike in the state minimum wage and excoriated opponent Tom Cotton for opposing it.
Dems see the minimum wage hike as not just good politics for swing voters in general, but also specifically in appealing to women. It is central in the push to win over downscale women in the Kentucky Senate race. Incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell, of course, is the leader of the Senate GOP that just refused to allow the issue to be debated, and Alison Lundergan Grimes’ campaign is out with a web video hitting him over today’s vote. And more broadly, the minimum wage hike, when packaged with other proposals such as pay equity, is about appealing to unmarried women, a crucial Dem constituency that tends to fall off in midterms.
Republicans today argued that they were not allowing debate in the Senate on this issue for the sake of low wage workers. Perhaps the best rendition of this came from Ted Cruz, who claimed he voted No for the sake of young minorities:
“Every senator who votes ‘yes’ is voting with an absolute certainty that hundreds of thousands of workers, including a great many African-American teenagers and a great many Hispanic teenagers, will be laid off as a consequence of their vote,” Cruz said. “I would challenge any of the senators in this chamber to look in the eyes of those African-American teenagers, those Hispanic teenagers who are looking for a better opportunity.”
Yesterday’s WaPo poll found that nonwhites say Dems are closer than Republicans to their views on the minimum wage by 60-25. As for the substance of the claim that raising the minimum wage destroys low end jobs, Paul Krugman ran through some of that debate right here.
At any rate, this is yet another important data point in the economic contrast Dems are drawing for 2014, one that is based on a Dem gamble on swing voters’ views about what has happened to the economy and which party has an actual policy agenda to begin to do something about it. We’ve already had Senate votes on other planks in the Dem platform — on pay equity and on extending unemployment benefits — and you can expect Dems to return to the minimum wage again in the months ahead. Dems will also hold votes on college affordability (on some kind of proposal to ease student loan debt) and on some form of legislation to protect Medicare.
This is what Harry Reid’s vow to use Senate votes to create a campaign blueprint looks like in practice. This notion has been greeted with a great deal of cynicism about how Dems know none of these things can pass and therefore are engaging in empty election year messaging votes. But in an election year, it’s good to have the two parties’ priorities set forth with as much clarity as possible. And that’s what we’re now getting.