The Biden White House is reportedly giving up on a federal minimum wage hike out of fear the measure will make the COVID-19 relief bill unpalatable to moderate Democrats and some Republicans, leaving the administration struggling to make good on a primary campaign promise.
President Joe Biden insists that his administration is in line with progressive, however, who have been demanding the administration “Fight for $15,” and that a measure hiking the federal minimum wage will come later.
“President Joe Biden said it is unlikely a $15 federal minimum wage provision makes it into the next Covid-19 relief package, hitting pause on a key campaign promise as Democrats in Congress press ahead to pass $1.9 trillion in stimulus without Republican support,” NBC News reported Sunday.
The problem appears to be two-fold, however. In order to pass the COVID-19 relief measure on a typical vote, Biden will require Republican support for the measure — support he’s not likely to get if Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) insists that the bill contain the minimum wage hike. But if Democrats decide to pass the bill through “reconciliation” — a parliamentary procedure that allows a party to force through a budget-oriented bill on a simple majority vote — a minimum wage provision would act as a “poison pill,” effectively killing the bill before it could be brought to a vote.
“Democrats in Congress have moved to pass the $1.9 trillion stimulus package without Republican support in the Senate using a parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-CA), said Friday that the lower chamber aims to pass the fiscal relief package within two weeks,” NBC News noted. “Under the rules of reconciliation, only measures that have an impact on the budget can be passed. Biden indicated in the interview that those rules likely wouldn’t allow the inclusion of a minimum wage provision in the final bill.”
“I put it in but I don’t think it’s going to survive,” Biden told CBS News, referring to the $15 minimum wage. “My guess is it will not be in.”
“I’m prepared as the president of the United States on a separate negotiation on minimum wage to work my way up from what it is now,” he continued. “No one should work 40 hours a week and live below the poverty wage and you’re making less than $15 an hour, you’re living below the poverty wage.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, however, insisted last week that a “room full of lawyers” could figure out how to pass the bill through reconciliation with a $15 minimum wage hike inside.
“We have a room full of lawyers working as hard as we can to make the case to the parliamentarian that in fact raising the minimum wage will have significant budget implications and in fact should be consistent with reconciliation rules,” Sanders said.
If the provision does not make it into the larger COVID relief bill, Biden will likely have just over a year to make the minimum wage hike law before Republicans and Democrats begin campaigning for the mid-year elections. A minimum wage hike is not popular among Republicans and moderate Democrats have been lukewarm on the prospect, particularly those who have to answer to “red” states for re-election.
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