COVID-19 Relief and Minimum Wage: Currently, it looks like Democrats will not be pushing to include any minimum wage provisions in their $1.9 trillion stimulus bill. Here is the reaction from both sides. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
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Thomas Franck of CNBC reports: “Senate Democrats will abandon backup plans to help raise workers’ pay through tax penalties against corporations in their $1.9 trillion stimulus bill. Lawmakers last week floated a “plan B” in President Biden’s COVID relief bill that would have punished corporations that paid workers below a certain threshold. Sens. Ron Wyden and Bernie Sanders offered that plan after the Senate parliamentarian ruled a proposed $15 per hour minimum wage could not be included in a bill passed under the budget reconciliation process.” Here’s what both sides are saying and why the topic of minimum wage matters:
On The Right
Republicans support the Senate parliamentarian’s decision. They call out perceived hypocrisy as it relates to progressives’ reaction to the ruling and minimum wage in general. With that said, Conservatives are paying closer attention to public opinion surrounding minimum wage, highlighting its increased importance in light of the economic fallout from the pandemic.
Let’s begin with Bill Scher, who voices his support for the Senate parliamentarian in a piece for RealClear Politics. Scher says in the past, “House progressives — including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Pramila Jayapal, and Ro Khanna… have defended unelected bureaucrats from conservative attack,” yet this time they “all sung from the same song sheet.” These progressives said: “… an ‘unelected parliamentarian’ should not be allowed to block a minimum wage increase” and pushed for her to be “overruled or fired.” Scher believes these calls are hypocritical. Scher says “It’s not the parliamentarian’s fault that … Democrats are not united in support for a $15 national minimum wage.” In regards to the parliamentarian’s ruling and other procedures in the upper house of Congress, like the Byrd Rule and filibuster, he says, “The rules stay on the books because a majority of the Senate wants to keep them on the books.” Scher concludes by saying “If the minimum wage is to be increased, it will be because enough members of Congress who hold different views negotiate with one another and reach a compromise. Progressives should work toward that end, and leave the parliamentarian alone.”
Emily Jacobs also hints at hypocrisy by calling out Democrat lawmakers for paying their employees less than the same minimum wage they promote. In The New York Post, she writes that “Lawmakers including Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Susan Wild (D-PA), Chris Pappas (D-NH) and Sharice Davids (D-KS)…have offered positions that paid below the minimum wage they claimed to be fighting for.” Pappas, in particular, “was outed for continuing to offer jobs at a $12.50 hourly wage when the congressman had changed his position to support $15.” In a similar piece from the Daily Wire, Ashe Schow writes that Bernie Sanders’ salaried staffers saw “their hours cut in order to ensure they’re paid $15 per hour.” In general, Conservatives’ argument against minimum wage increases is that they will lead to shorter hours and layoffs. By complaining about press coverage of this matter, Sanders “shows he hasn’t truly thought through the consequences of his policies.”
In terms of suggesting a way forward, Senators Tom Cotton and Mitt Romney outlined an alternative wage-increase proposal in a piece for Fox News. Cotton and Romney’s views are that “America has a responsibility to protect its citizens, but for years Congress has allowed the pay of our poorest workers to be eroded by competition from illegal immigrants and skyrocketing cost of living.” As a result, they are introducing a bill that would “correct both these failures” called “the Higher Wages for American Workers Act, [which] would raise the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour over time and make sure all the gains go to legal workers, not illegal immigrants.” The bill “would protect jobs for American workers by requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to ensure that businesses cannot hire illegal immigrants.” It would “also gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour, starting one year after the official end of the pandemic.” Cotton and Romney believe “This careful approach to the minimum wage would boost the paychecks of approximately 3.5 million workers while having ‘virtually no effect’ on the number of available jobs, according to the CBO.”
Republicans believe Democrat’s calls for a higher minimum wage are hypocritical because some haven’t practiced what they preach. However, there is a noticeable shift in terms of how some Conservatives are thinking about the issue in light of the pandemic.
On The Left
Progressive and establishment Democrats alike want President Biden to fight harder to pass an increased minimum wage. Whether they replace the parliamentarian or lean harder on moderate Democrats, progressives insist on a change.
David Sirota calls out President Biden in The Guardian for not going to bat for progressives on minimum wage and other matters as well. He writes, “There has been a lot of dishonesty and deception floating around Democratic Washington these days. There was the lie two months ago that $2,000 checks would be coming ‘immediately’ to a desperate nation struggling through a pandemic. There is the lie about the parliamentarian supposedly being the reason the $15 minimum wage is stalled. There is once again the lie of a forthcoming ‘public option,’ which Democrats promised but which is barely being discussed at all, and is not part of the COVID relief legislation.” Sirota, a former Bernie Sanders campaign staffer, can only conclude that “Biden seems unwilling to push as hard as possible for a minimum wage increase that would boost the pay of millions of Americans during an economic emergency.” He ends by urging Biden to reconsider, writing that “He has the power to at least try – he just seems unwilling to.”
In Salon, Jon Queally quotes The New Republic’s Osita Nwanevu, who “argued that Democrats have no one but themselves to blame for the failure to include the $15 minimum wage increase in the Senate’s COVID-19 relief package.” He points out that “a progressive coalition” has “sent a letter to Biden and Harris and are circulating a petition demanding that the parliamentarian’s guidance be disregarded so that the increase can be included in the Senate bill.” Queally notes that one of those progressives, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. addressed the issue Saturday morning on MSNBC. Jayapal said, “Democrats have no choice but to ‘muscle it through’ the Senate given the campaign promises made to voters leading up to last year’s elections.” … “It’s been 12 years since we’ve raised the minimum wage and 30 since we’ve raised the federal tipped wage,” added Jayapal. “We can’t keep kicking the can down the road as millions are pushed into poverty. In a crisis like this, working people need all the help we can provide. Let’s deliver.”
James Downie makes the same case in The Washington Post, citing a case from “twenty years ago when a parliamentarian ruled against Republican efforts to pass tax cuts by reconciliation in an evenly divided Senate.” Downie notes that “the GOP replaced him.” Downie believes that “One way or the other, [Democrats] need to get this done. Failure risks sending a dangerous message that they simply don’t prioritize a living wage for all Americans the way Republicans do tax cuts for the wealthiest.”
Democrats of all stripes seem to view the minimum wage increase as critical to their base and urge swift passage by any means necessary.
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A Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Thursday that “A majority of Americans support the idea of more than doubling the minimum wage to $15 per hour.” Meanwhile, a poll by Yahoo Finance and Harris of more than 1,000 US adults found that “83% of Americans agreed that a person working a full-time job at the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour isn’t making enough money to live.” However, 83% also agreed that “Congress should consider the wage hike separately from a COVID relief package.”
Do you think the Federal minimum wage should be increased to $15 per hour? Why or why not? Use the comment section below to share your thoughts.