Democrats in standoff over $15 minimum wage | TheHill – The Hill
Congressional Democrats are digging in for a fight over raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour as part of a $1.9 trillion coronavirus bill they want to pass in a matter of weeks.
The fight could escalate as soon as Wednesday, the earliest the Senate parliamentarian is expected to make a determination on whether the proposal can be included in the relief legislation under special budgetary rules planned for the package.
If it’s allowed, it would be a big win for Democrats, but one that would only tee up a larger battle within the party about how much to increase the minimum wage and how to structure it. With thin margins in both chambers, Democrats can’t afford to alienate either progressives or moderates.
“Fifteen dollars an hour is not a radical idea, a number of states have moved in that direction, over 60 percent of the American people think that’s where we should go and that’s what I want to do,” Sanders said when asked about talk of a smaller increase.
Supporters of the $15 minimum wage point to broad backing among congressional Democrats, arguing leaders should bend any Democratic senators unwilling to go along to the will of the party.
In the 50-50 Senate, if all Republicans vote against the wage hike, Democrats can’t afford any defections.
Manchin said if the minimum wage hike is allowed to be in the bill, he wants to change the increase from $15 an hour to $11 per hour.
“If it’s germane, at a 51-vote threshold, $11 basically works. … We could do $11 in two years and be in a better position than they’re going to be in five years with $15,” Manchin said.
Manchin appeared skeptical that there wouldn’t be enough support for the $11 minimum wage but declined to say how he would vote on the overall package if it’s rejected.
Manchin isn’t the only Democratic senator with concerns about increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, but he’s been the most vocal. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) has also come out against the idea, and even beyond the amount of the increase Democrats are privately discussing how to handle tipped wages or potential tax relief to small businesses.
A stand-alone bill from Sanders has the support of 37 additional Democratic senators — 12 votes short of the simple majority needed to pass the coronavirus bill.
The looming standoff comes as senators are still waiting to hear from Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian, about if a minimum wage increase complies with the Byrd Rule, an arcane procedure that determines what can and cannot be passed through reconciliation. Democrats are using the budget process to pass coronavirus relief so they can bypass the 60-vote legislative filibuster.
Sanders and his staff have been making pitches to MacDonough about why they think it complies and should be included.
“I put it in, but I don’t think it’s going to survive,” Biden told CBS News earlier this month, citing Senate rules on reconciliation.
That’s left some Democratic senators sidestepping the fight over increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour until it becomes a live issue — once the parliamentarian does, or does not, sign off on including it.