Despite the frustrations of its Progressive wing, the Democratic Party has decided to drop the $15 minimum wage increase from the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan after a heated debate over the weekend and on Monday, which came on the heels of Senate’s Chief Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough’s confirmation that the minimum increase could not go in the relief package if it is intended to pass under the reconciliation procedure.
Although some Democrats in the Senate tried to propose a more moderate minimum wage increase within the bill, in the end, Biden and his party’s lawmakers ended up ruling out its inclusion within the stimulus plan altogether in order to focus their attention on the other aspects of the bill.
Lawmakers who met with President Biden emphasized that it is more productive at this time to focus on the scope of the stimulus package than to continue to push for the inclusion of the minimum wage. Biden had previously acknowledged that the minimum wage would most likely not be included in the stimulus plan.
On Friday, the House passed the initial draft of the stimulus plan that passed with minimum wage included, but with the change made by lawmakers in the Senate it means that the new stimulus plan that passes the Senate will have to go through House debate again.
Several Democrats have not taken kindly to the denial by the Chief Parliamentarian and President Biden on raising the minimum wage in the stimulus plan, starting with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who claimed he planned to force a Democratic vote to raise the minimum wage. According to Sanders, “The President speaks to the soul of this country. This is the soul of the Democratic Party. The minimum wage has to be raised to a living wage.”
Last week some Democratic lawmakers were also consulting on how they could penalize large corporations through the tax code if they did not raise the minimum wage for their workers to $15. However, Democrats ended up abandoning this plan due to its complexity and growing skepticism about its legality.
There are also voices in the House of Representatives calling to overrule the House Speaker’s decision, such as Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) who said that “we cannot let the Parliamentarian’s decision stop a wage increase for Americans”.
Should the bill pass this week, it will have to go back through the House of Representatives, where there is still no guarantee that the stimulus will pass without the inclusion of the minimum wage. Representative and head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said she would review the bill in its final form before voting on it without the wage increase.
“We need to look at it and make sure they haven’t weakened it in any way,” Rep. Jayapal said referring to the stimulus plan, “We’ve made it clear that the minimum wage is a priority for us.”
Some Republicans such as Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) welcome raising the minimum wage, but not raising it to $15. Senate Democrats have several skeptics within their ranks on raising the minimum wage to $15 including Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).
On Tuesday Biden met with Democratic lawmakers to hammer out details on the stimulus plan that will be voted on in the Senate. For now, the $1,400 checks, extensions to unemployment benefits, and transfers of more than $350 billion to the states remain in the stimulus plan.