Senate Rejects Sanders $15 Minimum Wage
The Senate voted on Friday to oppose Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) plan to increase the federal minimum wage to $15.
Seven Democrats and one Independent who is a member of the Democratic caucus voted no. Though it appeared that every senator had cast their vote by 12:15 p.m., the vote has yet to be givenled closed.
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The Senate rejected a request to waive a procedural challenge to include the wage clause in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill by a vote of 58 to 42.
The landslide victory casts doubt on Biden’s ability to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 at some point during his first term.
Until Friday’s vote, Manchin, a rising power broker in the Senate’s 50-50 split, had been the only Senate Democrat to publicly oppose a national $15 minimum wage. Instead, Manchin prefers to set it at $11 an hour and index it to inflation.
Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Jon Tester (D-Mont. ), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Chris Coons (D-Del. ), Tom Carper (D-Del. ), and Angus King (I-Maine.) voted to uphold a procedural objection — a budget
With eight Democrats voting against it on procedural grounds, it’s unlikely that Biden will get his priority anytime soon. Instead, he’ll have to make a deal on raising the federal minimum wage, which hasn’t been raised since 2009, to a level below $15 per hour.
During a conference call with Senate Democrats last week, Biden reiterated his firm support for it and invited them to continue working on the wage increase.
“The president needs us to step ahead on COVID relief right now, but he has stated unequivocally that he supports a 100 percent raise in the minimum wage,” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), a vocal advocate for a $15 minimum wage, told reporters.
After the call, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), a vocal supporter of a $15 minimum wage, told reporters, “The president needs us to move forward right now on COVID relief, but he has made clear he supports a raise in the minimum wage 100 percent.”
The vote on the minimum wage came only days after it was revealed that centrist Democrats had pressured their representatives to support a dramatic cut in weekly unemployment benefits.
Democrats reported Friday morning that they were close to reaching an agreement to reduce the weekly unemployment aid to $300 from $400, as proposed by Biden and included in the House-passed relief package.
In a concession to liberals, the upcoming unemployment insurance deal will exclude up to $10,200 in benefits earned in 2020 from taxes and extend the increase to federal unemployment benefits to Oct. 4, rather than the House-set end date of Aug. 29.
Sensitivity is moderate. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) both voted in favor of the procedural objection to Sanders’ $15 minimum wage amendment.
Any single Republican senator in the Senate voted the same way.
Some Democrats are concerned about Sanders’ plan to increase tipped salaries for restaurant staff, which comes at a time when many restaurants are struggling to remain open due to the pandemic’s impact on industry.
After a Senate parliamentarian ruled last week that a clause increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 violated the Byrd Rule and thus could not be included in the relief package that Democrats expect to pass with a simple majority vote under special budget rules, the vote was mostly symbolic.
The fact that Friday’s vote was on waiving a budget point-of-order objection to the amendment rather than a simple up-or-down vote on the amendment itself could provide some solace to proponents of the $15 per hour wage, giving Democrats who voted no some leeway to vote yes in the future.
If the wage increase had been included, the parliamentarian’s ruling that it breached the Byrd Rule would have prevented the whole relief package from passing with a simple majority vote.
However, the procedural objection may have been upheld by Republican votes alone in the 50-50 Senate, showing that Democratic centrists are sending a message.