Two moderate Democrats have said that they will not support a $15 minimum wage if it is included in a coronavirus relief bill. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have both come out in opposition to the idea, which is a component of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief bill, and if passed will raise the minimum wage gradually from $7.25 to $15 over four years.
About the measure, Sinema told Politico, “What’s important is whether or not it’s directly related to short-term Covid relief. And if it’s not, then I am not going to support it in this legislation. The minimum wage provision is not appropriate for the reconciliation process. It is not a budget item. And it shouldn’t be in there.”
Bernie Sanders, who describes himself as a democratic socialist and is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, hopes to pass the minimum wage through the reconciliation process in order to avoid a Republican filibuster. This would mean that Democrats would only need a simple majority, instead of the usual 60 votes, though there have been questions as to whether this is permitted by the rules of the Senate.
Joe Manchin said in response to a question about whether he was supportive of a $15 per hour minimum wage, “No I’m not. I’m supportive of having something that’s responsible and reasonable.” He went on to say that, for his home state of West Virginia, that would be $11 and adjusted to inflation.
Because the house is split evenly between Republicans and the Democratic caucus, if even a single Democrat votes against the measure, it is highly unlikely that the new minimum wage will pass. Despite this, Sanders seems strangely optimistic, saying in an interview that “We’re feeling really good. We think we’ve got a good shot”.
Republicans, who do not back the measure, have pointed out that a $15 minimum wage could cost millions of jobs. This suggestion is backed up by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office who have pointed out that, whilst the change would likely raise the wages of about 27 million workers, around 1.4 million Americans could lose their jobs as businesses cut back to deal with the higher wages.
Concerns have been raised about small businesses in particular, for who the new wage regulation would likely be more problematic. These concerns are heightened by the pandemic, as, with small many businesses already under intense pressure, their ability to cope with such a dramatic change would be impeded.
Should the Democrats fail to pass the bill using the reconciliation process, it is likely that they will introduce it as a stand-alone bill, though the chances of such a bill passing through the Senate are slim. However, with Sanders as the Chair of the Budget Committee, it is likely that the Democrats will keep trying.