By a 52-46 margin, the GOP-controlled Senate rejected a proposal to raise the minimum wage, which if passed would have been the first raise in the minimum wage since 1997.

Republican opponents of the wage hike claimed the boost was a "wage killer" in contrast to the Democrats' position that the current $5.15 an hour is not a "just wage."

In a follow-up vote, Senate lawmakers also rejected a GOP compromise that would have raised the minimum wage by $1.10, and would have included provisions for flextime for workers and tax and regulatory relief for small businesses. That was defeated by a 53-45 margin.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., was quoted as saying that if Democrats win the Senate this November, a minimum wage increase will be one of the first pieces of legislation to be considered.

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