Florida's Senators Divide as Obama Looks to Make Minimum-Wage Hike Campaign Issue
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Despite controlling the U.S. Senate, Democrats failed to reach 60 votes to cut off debate on President Barack Obama’s call to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour with Florida’s two U.S. senators and the Sunshine State’s congressional delegation split on party lines.
Democrats could only muster 54 votes, while 42 senators voted against the minimum-wage increase. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., was the only Republican to vote for the increase while U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., voted against it in a legislative maneuver which will allow him to bring it back to the floor. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., voted for the increase while U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., voted against it.
"If your member of Congress doesn't support raising the minimum wage ... let them know they're out of step and, if they keep putting politics ahead of working Americans, you'll put them out of office," Obama said. “My message to the American people is this: Do not get discouraged by a vote like the one we saw this morning. Get fired up, get organized, get your voices heard."
In the meantime, Republicans are pushing back against the White House. Rubio took to the national airwaves on Wednesday night to slam Obama’s handling of the economy, including his call to raise the minimum wage.
Appearing on Greta Van Susteren’s show on Fox News, Rubio hit Obama for using the “same rhetoric of class warfare” which Obama and his allies “always rely on.”
“The problems is while his idea might poll well initially, it doesn’t actually help people trying to get ahead,” Rubio insisted. “If you own a business that can’t really raise prices and you have workers and now you have to pay them more, federally mandated, you’re going to have to find the money somehow.”
Rubio pointed to a Congressional Budget Office study that showed raising the minimum wage would hurt the economy and destroy jobs.
“I can’t support anything that will cost people their jobs,” Rubio said.
Rubio used the opportunity to call into question Obama’s record on the economy.
“The truth is, he has been president for six years,” Rubio said about Obama. “The very people he ran claiming to want to help are worse off today than they have ever been. Record numbers of people on food stamps. Record numbers of people dependent on government. Those are the facts. So now, desperate to try to create a counternarrative, their argument is that the only way some people can be better off is if we make other people worse off.
“The good news is that in America we have free enterprise,” Rubio added. “And free enterprise means everyone can be better off without making anyone worse off. That's what has made us different from the rest of the world. I wish we had a president that actually believed that.
In the meantime, Florida Democrats certainly appear ready to follow Obama’s lead on raising the minimum wage.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), sprung into action, echoing Obama’s call.
“Twenty-eight million Americans would see higher wages if Congress votes to raise the wage,” Wasserman Schultz insisted, adding she will “keep up the pressure on Republicans to do the right thing.”
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., one of the co-sponsors of the minimum-wage hike bill in the House, weighed in on Wednesday, thrashing Republicans for their opposition. The bill Castor is backing has little chance of passing the Republican-controlled House.
“Giving working families a raise to $10.10 would lift more than 1 million of our neighbors out of poverty and give a paycheck boost to an estimated 28 million Americans – benefiting families and the broader economy by generating $22 billion in new economic activity,” Castor said. “But Senate Republicans once again refuse to side with working families.
“We will not stop fighting for average Americans whose wages are not keeping up with rising costs, forcing them to fall further behind as they struggle to fill their gas tank, pay for child care or other living expenses,” Castor added.
“Republicans should side with our working neighbors and their economic struggles, not just the wealthy and corporations,” Castor continued. “Critics of giving working families a raise erroneously say that raising the national minimum wage would mainly help teenagers who work part-time and live with their parents, but that profile is far from reality. Eighty-eight percent of those helped by giving Americans a raise to $10.10 are adults, 56 percent of those are women and 55 percent work full time.”
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.