Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada was the only Democrat to vote with Republicans. That was a procedural move that will let Reid stage a future vote on the measure, underscoring the political value Democrats see in it.
Though Obama backed Harkin’s legislation, the president proposed a $9 minimum wage in his 2013 State of the Union address. That has fueled talk by lawmakers including Maine’s two senators, Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King, that compromise is possible.
But election-year politics suggests that would be difficult.
Leaders of the GOP-run House have shown no interest in even allowing debate, giving Senate Democrats little incentive to cut a deal. And Obama has recently signed executive orders requiring a $10.10 minimum for many federal contractors, making it hard for him to agree to a lower figure for everyone else.
Polls show that while the overall public favors an increase, Democratic voters strongly support one but Republicans — especially tea party backers — are against it. Powerful interest groups on each side are also against a middle ground, with unions backing a full increase and business groups opposing one.
Republicans point to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which estimated that an increase to $10.10 could cost about 500,000 jobs in 2016. They did not mention that the report also found the boost would mean higher incomes for 16.5 million earners and lift 900,000 people out of poverty.
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