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Senate Rejects $15 Minimum Wage

7 Democrats and 1 Independent joined Republicans in rejecting a pay raise for millions

Kris LaGrange's picture
Mar 05, 2021

On Friday, the Senate voted down a proposed increase of the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Seven Democrats and one Independent who caucuses with the Democrats voted against the minimum wage increase.

The vote was a procedural vote that would have allowed the minimum wage increase to be added to the COVID stimulus bill. Senators opposing the bill included Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Angus King (I-Maine.) as well as all Senate Republicans.

The vote is a huge setback for President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders who were leading the charge to raise the minimum wage. Before the vote, only Manchin had publicly announced his opposition. Senator Bernie Sanders has been the biggest advocate in the Senate for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In a statement following the vote, Sanders promised to keep fighting for the increase.

“At a time when millions of people are working for starvation wages when the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has not been raised by Congress since 2007 when the President of the United States and the House of Representatives support it, it is absolutely imperative that the Senate approve an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. If any Senator believes this is the last time they will cast a vote on whether or not to give a raise to 32 million Americans, they are sorely mistaken. We’re going to keep bringing it up, and we’re going to get it done because it is what the American people demand and need.”

Last week, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the minimum wage increase could not be included in the COVID stimulus bill and have the bill pass through budget reconciliation. This process would mean the bill only needed to get 50 votes instead of a filibuster-proof 60. Friday’s vote would have overruled the parliamentarian. This means that some of the Democrats could switch their vote and support a $15 minimum wage later. However, without a repeal of the filibuster, it is unlikely a standalone $15 minimum wage increase would pass the Senate.

The minimum wage has not been raised since 2009. With the increase to $15 an hour being voted down, it is likely that Senators will be forced to come to a compromise if they want to get an increase passed. Republican Senators Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton are already working on a plan to raise the minimum wage to $10. It would also index future raises to inflation. While it is unlikely this plan will get Democratic support, it could be a starting point for the two sides to meet in the middle at a $12 or $13 increase. Senator Sanders and other liberals have also floated a plan that would impose a 5% payroll tax penalty on “very large” companies that do not pay workers a certain amount, likely above $15/hr.

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