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$15 minimum wage: what's the state of the current negotiation and who is pushing for it?

Despite removal from the covid-19 relief bill to be introduced Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders plans to introduce an amendment on raising the minimum wage.

Senator Bernie Sanders will introduce an amendment on raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. The House passed the measure buts was dropped by Senate.

It is expected that the American Rescue Plan Act, President Joe Biden’s first major piece of legislation, will be brought to the Senate floor for consideration on Wednesday. One of the provisions that has caused friction among Democrats and their allies, raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, was stripped from the bill over the weekend.

President Joe Biden along with progressive Democrats have pushed for raising the current $7.25 per hour minimum wage, unchanged since 2009, to $15 by 2025. The House included the provision in the $1.9 trillion covid-19 relief bill, which passed on Saturday, even though it fell afoul of the parliamentarian’s decision saying it didn’t meet the rules for it to be included. To avoid a larger fight and delaying passage of the bill, Democratic leaders in the Senate decided to drop the measure from the bill that will be introduced in the Senate.

The Senate will still consider raising the minimum wage

During debate over the covid-19 relief bill in the Senate this week Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders told reporters on Monday that there would be a vote on the $15 minimum wage. He will introduce an amendment along with several other Senators with similar language to the House the Raise the Wage Act. However the Democrats most likely don’t have the votes to get the amendment attached to the bill.

Sanders himself acknowledged this saying “We’ll see who is going to vote for it and who is not going to vote for it,” He added "But let me be very clear. If we fail in this legislation, I will be back. We're going to keep going and, if it takes 10 votes, we're going to raise that minimum wage very shortly."

At least two Senate Democrats have expressed opposition to the measure, and only 38 Senate Democrats are currently co-sponsors of the measure. Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have indicated that they would vote against the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill if it includes the $15 wage rise.

If the amendment did pass, Republicans could raise a point of order against it, as the parliamentarian has ruled including such a provision would run afoul of budget reconciliation rules. Harris, in her role as president of the Senate, could dismiss the point of order.

Alternatives to the $15 minimum wage

Republican Senators Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton presented their own proposal for raising the minimum wage to $10 over five years, with the increase beginning the year after the end of the pandemic. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he is open to the idea telling reporters “It’s true it hasn’t been raised in quite a while, and I think it’s worth discussing.”

Senator Joe Manchin told reporters last week that he planned to introduce an amendment that would raise the minimum wage to $11 per hour. Both of these numbers may be too low for Democrats to accept but could start discussion for a more moderate minimum wage increase down the road.

When could the stimulus bill pass?

Once the covid-19 relief bill is introduced in the Senate it will start the clock ticking on 20 hours of debate. The expectation is that the legislation will be brought to the floor on Wednesday and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has made it clear that he intends to work around the clock. “I expect a hearty debate and some late nights,” Schumer said from the Senate floor on Monday.

The main focus has been on Democrats since under budget reconciliation in the evenly divided Senate they just need ever one of the 50 votes in their caucus plus Vice President Harris’ tiebreaking vote to pass the bill. But the Republicans could still slow the process down by extending the vote-a-rama session expected Thursday night into Friday morning, pushing it into the weekend or beyond.


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