What’s the Word on the $15 Wage Proposal?

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Since the official introduction of the House’s Raise the Wage Act of 2021, there has been a flurry of activity surrounding the process to enact a federal $15 minimum wage mandate, and which lawmakers really endorse taking immediate action.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have voiced skepticism about the $15 minimum wage proposal, especially given the backdrop of COVID-related struggles for businesses and employees across the country.

  • Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE): “I have supported raising the minimum wage to $15 for years. It’s obvious that we need to do more to support hard-working Americans…In this moment, we also want to be mindful of the small businesses across our country that have been hit particularly hard this past year during an unprecedented pandemic.” (Washington Post)
  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME): “While I support prompt additional funding for vaccine production, distribution, and vaccinators, and for testing, it seems premature to be considering a package of this size and scope…Moving forward, I want our bipartisan, bicameral group to get together to determine if we can come up with a more targeted package…” (Susan Collins’ website)
  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH): [on bipartisan concerns about Biden’s full COVID relief proposal] “‘That was a general issue that was expressed around a number of things: The more targeted the assistance can be where it’s needed most, the more helpful.’…The senators agreed, however, that vaccine distribution should be the priority over provisions like the $15 minimum wage, which cannot get the support of 10 Republicans.” (Politico)
  • Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), co-chair of the moderate House Problem Solvers Caucus: remarked that the addition of the $15 minimum wage into the relief package may “seem like it was ‘contaminated’ by partisans who wanted to use it as a vehicle to ‘legislate on things that are not related directly to the crisis.’” (USA Today)
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK): “Increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour — does [Biden] really think it should be part of this covid package?…Because if he really does, I’d like to have a conversation with him.” (Washington Post)
  • Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA): “The last thing the American people need is a bill coming out of Washington that would wipe out hundreds of thousands of their jobs.” (USA Today)

Twelve Senate Democrats have not signed on to co-sponsor the $15 minimum wage bill, including: Joe Manchin (WV), Krysten Sinema (AZ), Mark Kelly (AZ), Thomas Carper (DE), Chris Coons (DE), John Hickenlooper (CO), Angus King (ME), Jon Tester (MT), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Maggie Hassan (NH), Bob Menendez (NJ), and Catherine Cortez Masto (NV).

A bipartisan group of lawmakers have also expressed concerns about attempting to pass this wage mandate through the budget reconciliation process, which would bypass the potential for a Republican filibuster and would only require 51 votes to pass.

  • Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), House Budget Committee Chairman: “To be very candid with you, I think that’s a stretch. I think we’ll have a problem clearing what’s called the Byrd-rule in the Senate…” (CNN)
    • And, “I’m not sure it’s the smartest thing to do.” (Politico)
  • Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK): reportedly “angry” and “frustrated” that Democrats are moving “too quickly” toward reconciliation. (Punchbowl News)
    • Sen. Collins: “It is overdue for us to look at increasing the federal minimum wage, but it should be considered separately.” (Bangor Daily News)
  • Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) reportedly stated that if Democrats go the reconciliation route, “it would probably mean excluding the minimum wage increase Biden included in his Covid-19 proposal.” (Bloomberg Tax)
  • Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE): “President Biden campaigned over and over on bringing our country together, on working across the aisle…I don’t speak for him but it’s my strong impression that it would be better for the country, it would be better for the Senate, it would produce better results if we could do this in a bipartisan way.” (Politico)
  • Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) reportedly stated that Republicans could litigate if a $15 minimum wage is forced through the budget reconciliation process. (USA Today)