Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey anticipated an uphill battle on Capitol Hill. He is, after all, a Democrat who was backing his party’s bill on raising the minimum wage as staunchly as Republicans were opposing it.
“I’m hoping we can develop, or have developed, a consensus in the Democratic Party and, hopefully, Republicans will vote for it,” he said late Wednesday morning in Washington, during a conference call with reporters from his home state.
“It does not appear we will have that vote today, but I don’t think any party can escape what life is like for working families, some with members working several jobs.”
He was correct on the vote, as less than an hour later, the measure was blocked by the GOP. The Senate voted 54-42 in favor of allowing debate on the bill to proceed, but that was six votes shy of a Democratic victory. Bob Corker of Tennessee was the lone Republican to cross party lines and vote yes.
Before the vote, Casey spoke about the “fairness” of hoisting the minimum wage from the current $7.25 per hour to $10.10 over 30 months. The bill calls for the wage to rise, approximately, 90 cents each year over that time, with annual increases added to account for inflation.
“Increasing the minimum wage is one of the few things Congress can do in a fairly short time frame to give everyone a fair shot, especially women in the workforce and children.”
Casey said beforehand that if the wage bill passed, it would benefit 15.3 million women, 14 million children and 1 million veterans nationwide. He also said a higher minimum could create 3,000 to 4,000 jobs in Pennsylvania.
Asked about the increasing squeeze being placed on the middle class, he said: “Mimimum wage is one of the rungs to the middle class. The middle class has a lot of holes in its boat, and one of the reason is that we don’t give people an opportunity to make that ladder.
“We tell kids in school that if they work hard, they will get a shot at the American Dream. But they’re not going to get a fair shot if they’re working full time and making poverty wages.”
Before the conference call, Casey’s office sent an email to the media that included a graphic. It detailed, county by county, how a higher minimum wage would reduce enrollment and spending in Pennsylvania’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
According to the graphic, Washington County’s SNAP enrollment would decline by 2,200 at a savings of $2.91 million; and that Greene’s enrollment would drop by 700 with $880,000 saved.
The statewide figures are 156,052 and $207.5 million.