Pressure from Democrats to raise minimum wage to $ 15 meets roadblocks
Congressional Democrats and Joe Biden have made the $ 15 minimum wage a key part of their 2020 platform. But it is now at risk of being left out or watered down in Biden’s coronavirus package, a potential disappointment for them. progressives who fought for years to raise wages.
Democrats’ first hurdle: Plans to include it in their $ 1.9 trillion relief bill could violate Senate rules. But the bigger problem could be the Democratic caucus itself, where it’s unclear whether the package has the unanimous support of 50 Senate Democrats it needs to become law.
“The real problem is whether it gets any votes. Could we do it? Said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Who supports increasing the minimum wage to $ 15. “We have Democratic members who have concerns about this and so you wouldn’t want to put something in a reconciliation bill that would then prevent it from getting the votes to move forward.”
Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) has said he opposes a $ 15 minimum wage, Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) Has said he would like changes to be made and several more Democrats have been evasive. But Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Said in an interview Wednesday that he was confident he would have the votes to push forward the minimum wage hike through reconciliation, a process that would only require a majority simple for adoption: “I believe we do.
“There is a realization on the part of every member of the Democratic caucus that $ 7.25 is starvation pay,” said Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. “The American people strongly support raising the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour and I have no doubts that members of the Democratic caucus are going to do the right thing.”
The question could arise on Thursday during the Senate vote-a-rama – the marathon process of voting on the amendments to the finance bill – according to two sources familiar with the matter. While this is a non-binding roll call, likely forced by Republicans, it would be the first time Democrats have spoken about the issue of the $ 15 hourly wage.
The last time Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage was in 2007, to $ 7.25 an hour. It’s possible that this time around Democrats will have to settle for less than Biden’s initial proposal to gradually increase to $ 15 an hour by 2025. Currently, 29 states and the District of Columbia have a minimum wage above the federal minimum wage of $ 7.25.
One of the main moderates, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), did not comment on efforts to raise the minimum wage as part of reconciliation. His new colleague Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Arizona) has said he supports raising the minimum wage from its current level, but does not explicitly endorse Biden’s current proposal.
“The details matter in how you do it and what the schedule is. In different communities the economies are different, ”Kelly said in an interview. “I’m going to have to look at the details of what’s going on with minimum wage.”
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said the leadership has yet to meet the $ 15 minimum wage provision. “I’m sure we’re going to have to talk about this before we call that,” he said. “And find out where everyone is standing.”
Another potential hurdle is the Senate parliamentarian, who will assess whether the bill meets long-standing fiscal rules. Sanders and other supporters of the $ 15 minimum wage argue that the increase would reduce the amount of federal assistance low-income people receive and increase their taxable income – meeting Parliament’s criteria that any reconciliation move has an impact on the federal budget.
Supporters of the $ 15 minimum wage plan to cite reports from the left-wing Economic Policy Institute and the University of California at Berkeley that found raising the minimum wage to $ 15 by 2025 would reduce government spending in public aid programs and increase tax revenues. The Congressional Budget Office is also expected to release a report soon at Sanders’ request which will advocate for $ 15 an hour.
A senior Democratic official said conversations with the parliamentarian can only take place after the budget resolution is passed, which will likely take place on Friday morning. The Senate can then plead the question.
The $ 15 minimum wage is a failure for Senate Republicans, who argue it will hurt small businesses and lead to job losses. Plus, Republicans say states are in a better position to determine pay increases. This has led Democrats to include the provision in the coronavirus package, which can be passed without GOP votes as part of reconciliation. While Democrats could come up with a stand-alone bill, Senate Republicans would filibuster.
Republicans said Wednesday they were skeptical that the Senate parliamentarian would give the Democrats’ plan the green light.
“The budget is not a vehicle to pass substantive legislation and I think it’s going to come as a big shock to them,” said Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas).
The House passed a bill raising the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour in 2019; a Senate bill raising the salary to $ 10.10 won Manchin’s vote in 2014, the last time the chamber was controlled by Democrats.
Manchin said on MSNBC that he supported raising the salary to $ 11 and indexing it, but that made no sense in budget reconciliation.
“This is not the place to do it,” he said. “I don’t think the minimum wage hike contains that. “
Asked about Manchin’s comments, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said: “We’ll see.”
“I think Democrats are united,” said Brown, a progressive who visited Biden in the White House on Thursday. “No, we will not be divided. Yes, we will. “
Some senior House Democrats have predicted that the minimum wage provision could be removed after it is passed by the House. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) On Wednesday conceded that some things might not be “eligible for consideration in the reconciliation process.”
But Sanders shows no signs of doubt so far. The Vermont Independent said Wednesday it had “several attorneys” working on the case for the Senate parliamentarian.
“We believe that the increase in the minimum wage will have a large impact on the federal budget in very many areas,” he said. “So we think we can present a very, very solid case, consistent with the reconciliation process.”
Quint Forgey and Heather Caygle contributed to this report.