WASHINGTON – Pennsylvania's split Senate delegation reflected the partisan divide on the minimum wage Wednesday, as Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey staked out sharply different positions in a morning vote.
Casey, a Democrat, spoke out in favor of raising the national minimum wage to $10.10 while Toomey, a Republican, said the bill would kill jobs. They were on opposite sides of a plan that never had much chance of passing, but that is expected to play a central role in Democrats' political campaigns this fall.
"It's one of the few things the congress can do in a short time frame to give everyone a fair shot, especially those who are particularly hurting in this economy," Casey said in a conference call shortly before the vote.
"Fair shot" is the term Democrats have attached to a series of proposals that they say will help Americans struggling in a difficult economy – but that have little hope of winning Republican support. The bills are more likely to force GOP lawmakers into uncomfortable positions than to become law.
Casey said he didn't know of any one bill that could help so many people so quickly, including, he said 14 million children – more than 500,000 in Pennsylvania – whose parents would get a raise.
"There's not a fair shot if you're working full time and because of the cost of everything else going up, you're making poverty wages, and the other side has not had an answer for that," Casey said.
Toomey and other Republicans opposed the measure, using a filibuster threat to stall it on a key procedural step. The vote was 54-42, with 60 votes needed to advance the bill.
"The last thing the American people need is a bill coming out of Washington that would wipe out hundreds of thousands of their jobs. Yet this is precisely what the Senate voted on today," Toomey said in a news release. "I do not support government policy that puts hundreds of thousands of people out of work."
Citing the Congressional Budget Office, Toomey said the bill would eliminate 500,000 jobs nationwide. Other studies, he said, predicted that 118,000 Pennsylvanians could lose their jobs. Toomey said the impact would hit low-skill and young workers hardest.
New Jersey Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, both Democrats, supported the measure.
Only one Republican, Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), voted in favor of advancing the bill. Four senators were absent.