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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Senate voted down a proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10.
Today's rejection was expected and comes in the early months of this year's congressional campaign season. The bill to raise the mimimum wage was backed by President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats.
The proposed legislation, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), would have gradually raised the current $7.25 hourly minimum wage to $10.10 per hour over 30 months, and then provide automatic annual increases to account for inflation.
Democrats argued that if fully phased in by 2016, it would push a family of three above the federal poverty line, according to The Associated Press.
The minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2009.
"Millions of American workers will be watching how each senator votes today. To them, it's a matter of survival," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said before the vote. "For Republicans, this vote will demonstrate whether they truly care about our economy."
However, Republicans argued that it would be too expensive for employers and cost jobs. A Congressional Budget Office report released earlier this year revealed the move would increase earnings for 16.5 million low-wage Americans, but cost the nation about 500,000 jobs.
"Washington Democrats' true focus these days seems to be making the far left happy, not helping the middle class," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Today's vote was 54-42 in favor of allowing debate on the measure to proceed, six votes short of the 60 that Democrats needed to prevail.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was the only Republican to cross party lines and vote "yes" on the measure. Reid switched his vote to "no," which gives him the right to call another vote on the measure. No other Democrats opposed the bill, the AP reported.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who has been seeking a deal with other senators on a figure lower than $10.10, said Wednesday that she will continue that effort. Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who usually sides with Democrats, said he too favors finding middle ground.
But Democratic leaders have shown no inclination to do that, according to the report. "We're not going to compromise on $10.10," Reid told reporters after the vote.
Democrats said they intend to force another vote on the increase closer to this year's elections.
The legislation is opposed by business groups, including the National Retail Federation, National Council of Chain Restaurants and the International Franchise Association.
According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, about two-thirds of the 3.3 million people who earned $7.25 an hour or less last year worked in service jobs, mostly in food preparation and serving.