In a 52-46 vote, the Senate rejected a Democrat-proposed bill to increase the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over two years, marking the ninth time since 1997 that legislation to raise the limit has been defeated.
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Five dollars and fifteen cents an hour. According to federal law, that's the least employees can be paid. It's been at that level for nearly a decade.
In that time, 21 states and the District of Columbia have moved on their own to boost minimum wages, from a high of $7.63 in Washington State to $5.70 in Wisconsin.
On Capitol Hill today, the Senate again tried, and failed, to increase a wage rate that liberals, in particular, have argued punishes the poor. Senator Ted Kennedy proposed a plan to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour over three years.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), Massachusetts: If you work hard 40 hours a week, 52 weeks of the year, you shouldn't live in poverty, and that's what happening! That's what happening!
Nine years they've waited, nine years they've waited, but not the members of the United States Senate: $30,000 we've increased our salary. In nine years, we've refused to provide an increase to the men and women that are working on the lowest rung of the economic ladder.
But Republicans argued successfully that a minimum wage hike would create more problems than it solves.
SEN. MICHAEL ENZI (R), Wyoming: Minimum wage jobs don't get you out of poverty; they keep you in poverty. Until we get a workforce investment act passed around here that increases the job training, increases the job training for 900,000 people a year, so that they can get higher-skilled jobs, so that they can get the jobs of the future, not the jobs of the past.
A similar effort in the House was also derailed this week, but Democrats in both chambers say they plan to raise it again. The Department of Labor reported that, in 2005, two million people earned $5.15 an hour or less.