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Senate GOP blocks Dems’ effort to boost minimum wage

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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and other Democrats, urge approval for raising the minimum wage, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Front row, from left are, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Reid, Senate Appropriations Committee Committee Chair Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Senate Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

Updated Wednesday, April 30, 2014 | 11 a.m.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s first attempt to push a minimum wage hike through the Senate fell short today, as expected.

But Reid got one Republican — Bob Corker of Tennessee — on board for the 54-42 procedural vote. Senate Democratic leaders seem to have taken that as a cue to run what they have honed in the past few months as a winning strategy: Keep forcing votes on the issue until more Republicans are forced to come on board.

“We’re going to bring this issue back over and over and over again,” Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “I want to salute Bob Corker for voting for this.”

It’s not unlike the playbook Democrats ran when they were tackling long-term unemployment benefits.

When Democrats pledged to extend emergency unemployment benefits at the beginning of 2014, only one Republican, Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, was part of the push to get the legislation through Congress.

It took several attempts and several more changes to the legislation to get enough Republican senators to clear a filibuster. But after three months, the Senate managed to pass a five-month unemployment extension with the help of six Republicans. (It is still lingering before the House.)

Democrats seem to have accepted that, similarly, they will have to compromise to build enough support in the Senate for a minimum wage hike indexed to inflation.

But they are digging in their heels on the new figure — $10.10.

“We are happy to compromise. But we are not going to compromise on blocking people into poverty,” Reid said. “$10.10 is the base minimum...We’ll compromise on lots of things, but not the number.”

To press their point, Democrats are rattling their campaign sabres, warning that they will push the minimum wage issue among voters before the November elections. They expect the issue will bring even occasional voters out of the woodwork.

“Low-income people tend not to vote, but on this? This is one they’d come out for,” said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

Republicans charge that Democrats are simply playing politics for the sake of politics and gunning for the minimum wage because it is “legislation that the left flank of their party demands,” as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. McConnell added that a $10.10 minimum wage “would cost as many as a million jobs.”

Heller has also expressed opposition to a minimum wage hike, which he voted against on today. His reasoning, as he explained earlier this month, is that in Nevada, state law requires the minimum wage to be a dollar higher than the federal minimum wage, meaning “we’re talking about $11.10...I don’t think any small business wants to see that level of wages at this point.”

Associated Press writer Matt Daly contributed to this story.

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