The senate has rejected efforts to advance a minimum wage bill.
On a 54-43 vote, Democrats lost an effort to advance a House-passed bill that would lift the pay floor from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour without any accompanying tax cut. Opponents of the tax cut needed 60 votes to prevail.
Opponents say the increase must be accompanied by new tax breaks for restaurants and other businesses that rely on low-paid workers.
The vote sent a message to House Democrats and liberals in the Senate that only a hybrid tax and minimum wage package could succeed in the Senate. But any tax breaks in the bill would put the Senate on a collision course with the House, which is required by the Constitution to initiate tax measures.
The House passed the increase two weeks ago. Since then Speaker Nancy Pelosi D-Calif., and Rep. Charles Rangel, the chairman of the tax writing Ways and Means Committee, have prodded the Senate to keep tax proposals out of the bill.