Democrats may drop $15 minimum wage from coronavirus relief because 2 senators oppose it

By Kathryn Krawczyk

Despite Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) promise to vote for his party’s coronavirus relief bill, his and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-Ariz.) opposition to the package’s $15 minimum wage hike may still sink it.

Progressives’ long fight for a $15 federal minimum wage finally found its vehicle in the COVID-19 relief package currently being considered in the Senate. As it stands, the bill will raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.50 once it’s passed, and keep growing annually until it reaches $15 in 2025. But Manchin would prefer the cap to remain at $11 per hour, and Sinema doesn’t think it should be in the bill at all, leaving the party at an impasse they plan to solve with help from the Senate parliamentarian, Politico reports.

The parliamentarian advises senators on the rules and procedures of the body, especially when it comes to a Reconciliation bill, which the Democrats are using to push through their relief bill without GOP support. Republicans and Democrats are planning to meet with the parliamentarian Wednesday to argue against and for the wage hike, respectively, Politico reports. The GOP says the hike will hurt small businesses struggling in the pandemic, while Manchin has argued “throwing $15 out there right now just makes it very difficult in rural America,” despite the wage increase not taking full effect for years.

The impasse has Democrats considering knocking the hike to just $11 or $12/hour, Rep. John Yarmouth (D-Ky.) told Politico. Still, progressives led by Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are standing firm, with Sanders telling reporters on Monday that “I think we’re going to pass [the bill] as it is.”

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