Thursday, April 3, 2014

Compromise on federal minimum wage unlikely, Pryor maintains opposition

Posted By on Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 4:21 PM

click to enlarge PRYOR: His political sweet spot is bad news for a federal minimum wage bill.
  • PRYOR: His political sweet spot is bad news for a federal minimum wage bill.
Sen. Mark Pryor makes the case in a guest post today here on the blog for raising the state minimum wage in Arkansas from $6.25 to $8.50 — but Pryor maintains his opposition to a Senate bill which would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. 

Pryor appears ready to join Republicans in the Senate filibustering the bill. Pryor, and perhaps a few Republicans, might go along with a smaller minimum wage hike (after all, Pryor's on record in favor of an $8.50 minimum wage). Greg Sargent at the Washington Post reports that according to Democratic aides, Pryor would probably support a federal minimum wage of $9.

So is there room for a compromise? Probably not, Sargent writes. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said she was trying to gather support for a bipartisan bill that would hike the minimum wage, but not all the way up to $10.10...perhaps more in the Pryor territory of $9. However, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said that's a no-go. Democrats would likely take a pounding from their base and end up losing a few of the more liberal members of their caucus, while it's not clear that Collins can bring any Republican aboard in any case. 

Furthermore, the incentives run against the Democrats caving. They believe that this is political winner for them come November, as the Wall Street Journal reports today

Democrats are banking heavily on the minimum-wage fight to drive turnout this fall, highlighting the issue to energize their base and to paint the GOP as a party that doesn’t care about the middle class.

Pryor, meanwhile, is angling to capitalize on that energy while keeping his distance from President Obama, who remains incredibly unpopular in Arkansas. Pryor wants a minimum wage hike (popular!) but not that stinking Obamawage! As the Journal puts it: 

It’s not quite that simple in Arkansas, another Senate battleground where voters will decide whether to raise the state minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $8.50. Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, who faces a tough re-election, wants to raise the state threshold, but not the federal one, arguing the jump to $10.10 is “too fast.”

While Mr. Pryor needs Democrats to support him in November, he also needs to create as much daylight as possible between himself and the president.

I suspect that was a larger consideration than the policy finer points when Pryor wrote in his guest post: 

Now, Some in Washington, including President Obama, have recently called for raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10. While that might make sense for more affluent places like California or New York, I believe it could have a negative impact on employers’ ability to continue to provide jobs in a less wealthy state like Arkansas.

Another way of looking at it is that Arkansas workers would have more to gain than wealthier states from the hike to $10.10. But that sounds like something that "some in Washington, including President Obama" would say — so, oh well. If the incentives are lining up for most Senate Democrats to hold firm, they're also lining up for Pryor to straddle the fence. He can both be for increasing the minimum wage and standing against Reid and Obama. For Pyror, that's just about ideal. And that is one of the many reasons that the federal minimum wage bill is doomed. 

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