President Joe Biden privately admitted to Democrat mayors and governors last week that a planned hike in the federal minimum wage is “dead” and that it will not be included in the forthcoming COVID-19 relief bill, Politico reports.
Democrats had demanded that a gradual hike, ending at a $15 minimum wage across the country in 2025, be part of the Biden administration’s coronavirus relief package, already estimated to cost taxpayers in the range of $2 trillion.
But with few Republicans on board with passing yet another trillion-dollar bailout for the victims of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its associated economic lockdowns, Democrats may have no choice but to pass the bill through a process called “reconciliation,” which allows “budget-focused” legislation to pass by a simple majority vote, rather than the 60 votes required for sweeping changes to federal law.
The Biden administration has been mum on whether the final COVID-19 relief bill would have the minimum wage hike, but the president himself reportedly told Democrat governors at a meeting last week that there’s little chance the hike will pass — at least, it will not pass as part of the coronavirus bill.
“I really want this in there but it just doesn’t look like we can do it because of reconciliation,” Biden said, according to Politico. “I’m not going to give up. But right now, we have to prepare for this not making it.”
“The comments, which were confirmed by two other people familiar with the conversation, were the furthest Biden has gone in conceding the coming axing of the $15-an-hour minimum wage provision from his first major legislative package,” the outlet adds. “And they suggest that the president is more inclined to manage the fallout of it not being included than to pursue long-shot, political-capital consuming efforts to fight for its insertion.”
Progressives, of course, disagree, and, like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who has long been a proponent of raising the minimum wage, believe that President Joe Biden is not working hard enough to find a way to pass the hike, even in a bill destined for “reconciliation.”
“Given the makeup of the Senate, this is our best opportunity and the right moment in the midst of this pandemic, to give millions of workers a long-overdue raise,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) told Politico.
It’s not as though the bill is empty of handouts to pet leftist causes, however. A memo, circulated to Republican lawmakers looking to derail the bill, notes several troubling issues, including a grant to colleges that maintain ties with China.
“The memo also calls out subsidies and loan forgiveness to farmers and ranchers on the basis of race and ethnicity; allowing coronavirus funding to go to colleges that have partnerships with Chinese-controlled companies and Confucius Institutes; and doling out $50 million for environmental justice grant programs, which the [House Republican Study Committee] pans as ‘a thinly-veiled kickback to leftist environmental groups,'” Fox News reports.
Republicans are also likely to challenge a provision loosening the requirements for obtaining a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program.