By KATHLEEN RONAYNE Monitor staff
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
(Published in print: Thursday, May 1, 2014)
While U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen spoke on the Senate floor this week in favor of increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, three of her possible Republican opponents said they would have sided with 41 senators in blocking the bill. Her fourth opponent, former U.S. senator Scott Brown, did not take a clear position.
“I haven’t read the bill,” Brown said yesterday. “I certainly would be willing to be part of the conversation, as I have been before.”
Raising the minimum wage is likely to be a major election-year talking point for Democrats, and yesterday’s vote was largely symbolic. The U.S. Senate bill would have raised the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, but it didn’t cross the 60-vote threshold for passage on a vote of 54-42. U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, voted against the bill. In New Hampshire, legislation to raise the minimum wage to $9 by 2016 is expected to die in the Republican-led Senate. Republican candidates Bob Smith, Jim Rubens and Karen Testerman all said this week that they would have voted against the legislation, in part because they said it will cost jobs.
On the Senate floor, Shaheen said the bill would have resulted in a raise for 110,000 New Hampshire residents and lifted 10,000 people out of poverty. As governor in 1997, Shaheen signed legislation that raised the minimum wage for tipped workers and brought the state wage from $4.25 to $5.15, mandated by a raise in the federal minimum wage.
“Making sure workers in New Hampshire get a fair wage for an honest day’s work is something I have focused on since I was governor,” Shaheen said on the Senate floor. “We must act to raise the minimum wage to ensure that hardworking Americans have a fair shot at success.”
Legislation to raise the minimum wage did not come to the U.S. Senate floor while Brown served Massachusetts from 2010 to 2012. But as a state senator in Massachusetts in 2006, he voted for legislation to raise the state minimum wage to $8 by 2008 and voted to override then-Gov. Mitt Romney’s veto.
Brown referenced his previous support for raising the minimum wage when asked about the U.S. Senate legislation, but did not endorse or say he was against raising the wage now. He said it’s important to include job creators in discussions of raising the wage.
“I’ve supported a minimum wage increase before. It’s something that I think needs to be periodically reviewed, but it’s really important to make sure that everyone’s at the table, especially people who are hiring and growing,” he said. “When you throw in the extra costs of Obamacare, high costs of energy, these are all things that are dragging on businesses right now.”
In a statement on her vote against the bill, Ayotte referenced Congressional Budget Office estimates that show raising the minimum wage could cost 500,000 jobs.