June 23, 2006 – Senate Republicans this week defeated a proposal by Democrats to increase the federal minimum wage for the first time in nearly a decade. The amendment, which was attached to a defense authorization bill by Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), would have gradually increased the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour by 2009.
The 52-46 vote was eight short of the 60 needed for approval under budget rules and came just one week after a House vote gave Congress a $3,300 “cost of living adjustment” that will raise Congressional pay to $168,500 a year. Since 1997, Congress has voted itself nine pay raises totaling nearly $35,000.
Workers currently receiving the minimum wage earn only $10,712 a year, well below the poverty line for a family of three. In fact, a joint study by the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released yesterday shows since 1997 the buying power of the minimum wage has plummeted 20 percent to a 51-year low.
Despite soaring consumer costs such as gas prices and housing, yesterday’s Senate vote was the ninth time since 1997 Republicans have defeated efforts by Democrats to win workers an increase in the minimum wage.