The battle over increasing the minimum wage continues as congressional Democrats attempt to negotiate a compromise that might be less than their initial $15 per hour plan.
Democrats in February were forced to remove their proposed $15 minimum wage from a House-passed $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that it violated budget rules.
The relief legislation would have contained a provision penalizing large corporations who did not pay their workers at least $15 per hour. The current minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour since 2009.
Another attempt to pass a $15 minimum wage bill, mounted by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, was rejected by the Senate on March 5 by a vote of 58-42. Eight Democrats voted against the bill.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, faced criticism for the exaggerated manner in which she cast her vote, delivering a thumbs down in the center of the chamber. The video of her vote went viral.
In a March 23 meeting convened by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, Democrats regrouped to try to find common ground. The meeting included the eight Democrats who opposed the Sanders wage bill.
Schumer is considering using an arcane budgetary procedure known as reconciliation to renew the effort to pass a $15 wage, The Intercept reported earlier this week.
Paul Guppy, the vice president of the Washington Policy Center, said that the Democrats are not likely to drop the minimum wage issue.
“In negotiating terms, the Democrats could always propose a lower number; the federal minimum wage hasn’t been changed for many years, so I do think they will propose different numbers,” Guppy said.
Various lawmakers have been vocal about their support for increasing minimum wage and have denounced the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling.
“I do believe we should override the parliamentarian,” Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, said. “I think that this is a matter of course and that constituents and people across this country put Democrats in power to, among many other things, establish a $15 minimum wage. We have a responsibility to do that.”
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, said “Americans should not be robbed of a living wage by archaic Senate rules and procedures—including the filibuster.”
Republican lawmakers are not opposed to a minimum wage boost, but differ with the Democrats over how much it should go up and when.
“It’s true it hasn’t been raised in quite a while, and I think it’s worth discussing,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, told reporters on March 2.
GOP Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Tom Cotton of Arkansas have proposed raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour over five years, but that would not start until after the coronavirus pandemic ends.
Maryland is one of 21 states and 26 cities and counties that raised their minimum wage rates on Jan. 1, according to Raise the Minimum Wage, part of the nonpartisan National Employment Law Project. Maryland’s minimum wage rose from $11 an hour to $11.75 an hour for businesses with 15 or more employees.
A Hart & Associates poll of 67 competitive House districts found that 62 percent of respondents backed hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. The survey was commissioned by the National Employment Law Project.
Workers unions such as the AFL-CIO say that increasing the minimum wage can benefit working Americans. Bill Samuel, the organization’s CEO of government affairs, said that “working people have waited long enough.”
“This overdue raise will bolster the economy, reduce poverty, and ensure working families have the baseline economic security we deserve,” Samuel said. “Whatever it takes, our members expect Congress to get this done.”
Meanwhile, progressive Democrats are pressing President Joe Biden to renew the push to increase the minimum wage. A group of them met last week with White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, said on MSNBC Sunday.
“We certainly understand that there was a failed strategy, not by the progressives in Congress – because we put (the $15 minimum wage proposal) in the (COVID relief) package – (but) by the administration,” Omar said.