If there is any cause that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party has fought for, it is the $15 an hour minimum wage. The idea has taken such traction that even President Joe Biden included raising the minimum wage in the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan for the U.S. economy.
In an interview with Norah O’Donnel on CBS, President Biden said that the $15 an hour minimum wage proposal “I put it in there, but I don’t think it’s going to survive,” and went ahead to predict that it would not be in the final stimulus program passed.
Last Friday, Democrats in the Senate passed the budget for the stimulus plan without GOP support, using a parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation. According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the stimulus plan would be approved in less than two weeks.
Despite the plan’s own proponent’s (Biden) skepticism about including the minimum wage increase in the stimulus plan, senator Bernie Sanders, the head of the Senate Budget Committee, continues to push for the increase to be included within the package.
“We have a room full of lawyers working hard so that we can make the case to the parliamentarians that in fact raising the minimum wage will have significant budget implications and is consistent with the reconciliation rules,” Sanders said in an interview with CNN on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Republicans oppose the inclusion of the minimum wage increase within the stimulus package, believing it is unrelated to pandemic care and could severely restrict the financial resilience of small and medium-sized businesses. In addition to not supporting the minimum wage in the stimulus package, Republican lawmakers also believe it is still too early to pass such a plan, as checks from the Congressional stimulus plan, passed in December, are still being circulated.
Considering Biden’s stimulus plan too broad, a group of ten Republicans, led by senator Susan Colin of Maine, submitted their own $618 billion stimulus plan, one-third of Biden’s, which includes targeted transfers to Americans with incomes under $50,000 annually with a $1,000 payment to Americans with an additional $500 in aid for each child. The Republican plan has not received much attention from Biden or his party.
Although the president acknowledged that the minimum wage is unlikely to end up included within the stimulus plan for the American economy, he pledged to prioritize raising the wage in separate legislation.
President Biden has also changed his mind on the distribution of stimulus relief checks, saying in a Friday meeting with House Democratic lawmakers that he is willing to consider a smaller pool for the $1,400 checks. Sanders said he would also oppose limiting the outreach population for the stimulus checks.
In addition to the $1,400 aid checks within the pandemic stimulus plan, Democrats plan to pass provisions such as a $400 per week unemployment benefit through September, $350 billion in aid to state and local governments, a $20 billion national vaccination program and $50 billion for testing for the virus. The bill is also likely to include $170 billion for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education and $30 billion in rent and utility assistance.