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‘No!’ say Senate Republicans to minimum wage

minimumwage 600President Obama on Wednesday sent out a written statement saying it's time for Congressional Republicans to "listen to the majority of Americans who say it's time to give America a raise."

The statement itself speaks to the fact that as a group, the Republicans are either not hearing the same thing as President Obama and his Congressional supporters. Or, they are fundamentally aligned with another thought pattern.

Meanwhile, that thud coming of the Senate chamber is the aftershock from a 54-42 vote on Wednesday that signaled the failure of a proposal linked to bumping the federal minimum wage up from $7.25 to $10.10. Sixty votes were needed to derail a filibuster against a measure pushing the increase. When the votes were counted only one Republican had chosen to let the measure go forward.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) voted to allow the proposal to proceed to debate.
"While I think the underlying policy is problematic, I think we should always debate ways to help improve the standard of living of Americans," Corker said in a written statement.

Corker's position on the vote put him at odds with Tennessee's other Republican senator, Lamar Alexander. The senior Republican on the committee that oversees labor policy, Alexander said Republicans have a "better way" to raise family incomes than the Democrats' proposal.

"On the most important issue facing the country, surely we can do better than the stale, bankrupt idea that according to the Congressional Budget Office would destroy 500,000 jobs," Alexander said in a written response to the proposal.

In a floor speech Monday, Alexander said: "A minimum wage increase is said to benefit low-income Americans, but only $1 in $5 from an increase will go to families below the poverty line. And that is not all. In addition to cutting 500,000 jobs and providing 80 percent of the benefits to families above the poverty level, the Democrats' jobs proposal imposes one more burden on the only Americans who are capable of solving this problem, and that is the job creators."

Noting that Republicans have not been able to offer amendments in the labor committee, Alexander highlighted several bipartisan proposals that he said would help create jobs:

* Increase the Earned Income Tax Credit.
* Change Obamacare's definition of fulltime employment from 30 to 40 hours.
* Reform federal job training programs.
* Pass the "Scholarships for Kids Act."
* Build the Keystone XL Pipeline.
* Pass the Trade Promotion Authority.
* Reform the National Labor Relations Board.
* Repeal the medical device tax.

"This kind of thinking is right in line with Obamacare, Dodd-Frank and all of the other polices that have spread a big, wet blanket of rules and regulations over our free enterprise system and made it harder to create a job and harder to find a job in the United States of America," said Alexander of the Democrats' proposal. "That's why we have 10.5 million unemployed in America today for an average of nine months."

Soon after the Senate Republicans blocked the consideration of the increase in the minimum wage, Rep. Steve Cohen, who represents Tennessee's Ninth District as a Democrat, renewed his call for Speaker John Boehner to allow the House to vote on the legislation, known as H.R. 1010, the Fair Minimum Wage Act.

Increasing the minimum wage would help more than 600,000 Tennesseans and help lift as many as 4.5 million Americans out of poverty, said Cohen.

"No one who works hard and plays by the rules should have to raise their families in poverty. When I came to Congress in 2007, I was proud to vote for an increase in the federal minimum wage, but since then the cost of basic necessities has risen and the minimum wage has become less valuable," said Cohen in statement released by his office.

"I am disappointed that Republicans have blocked the Senate from even debating an increase in the minimum wage, and I strongly urge Speaker Boehner to schedule an immediate vote on the Fair Minimum Wage Act. The millions of Americans working for the minimum wage – who average 35 years old – deserve a raise for their hard work."

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron released a statement in response to Alexander's vote against the proposal.

"Senator Alexander, who has become a multi-millionaire as a politician, doesn't think that working people should make enough to feed their families," said Herron. "After five decades on the government payroll, he has lost touch with real Tennesseans and with what life is like for working people."

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