Senate version of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill does not include an increase to the minimum wage.
Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ effort to insert a $15 minimum wage provision into the massive coronavirus spending bill failed in the Senate Friday.
Sanders faced bipartisan opposition with just 42 Democrats siding with him and 58 senators voting “no” as of the vote count by 1 p.m. The official tally had not yet been announced, but it was clear Friday afternoon that Sanders’ effort to boost wages fell short of the 60 votes needed to be included in President Biden‘s signature stimulus legislation to fight the pandemic and boost the economy.
Sanders, an unrelenting proponent of raising the $7.25 federal minimum wage, sought to insert the measure back into the legislation by an amendment on Friday.
“This reconciliation bill does not include an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour,” Sanders said in a speech before the vote. “In my view, it should have. I think the parliamentarian was dead wrong, but more importantly, it is an absurd process that we allow an unelected staffer — somebody who works for the Senate not elected by anybody — to make a decision as to whether 30 million Americans get a pay raise or not.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., raised a point of order saying Sanders’ amendment was out of line with the budget rules that the parliamentarian was enforcing. So the Senate took a vote to waive the Budget Act point of order raised by Graham. Sanders needed 60 votes to waive the rule.
Eight Democrats joined with Republicans in blocking Sanders’ effort, including Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Jon Tester of Montana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Chris Coons of Delaware, Tom Carper of Delaware and Angus King, a Maine Independent.
With the amendment failing, the $15 wage provision is officially dead as part of the coronavirus bill. Democrats in the House and Senate will have to try again to pass the wage increase as a separate piece of legislation.
Coons said even though he voted against the minimum wage amendment now, he still wants the issue to be taken up separately.
“Every Democrat and many Republicans agree that the federal minimum wage of $7.25 is too low and has been for too long,” Coons said of his vote against Sanders’ proposal. “It has to be raised. President Biden has called for us to raise it to $15 an hour. I will work with my colleagues on legislation to raise the minimum wage and index it annually.”
Sanders’ proposal was the first of what is expected to be a flurry of amendments offered by senators Friday to try to change the coronavirus bill. All 50 Republicans were unanimously opposed to advancing the legislation Thursday, so Vice President Kamala Harris had to come to the Senate to cast the 51st tie-breaking vote with Democrats to kick off debate on the landmark bill.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found this week that Biden’s coronavirus proposal would add $1.862 trillion to the national deficit over 10 years, with the bulk of the new spending — $1.173 trillion — occurring in the fiscal year 2021.
The federal minimum wage has not increased in more than a decade, although a growing number of states have voted to adopt their own wage increases. There are 29 states with wages above the federal minimum wage, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. At $14 an hour, California currently has the highest minimum wage in the nation.
Raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2025 would cost the economy about 1.4 million jobs and would lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty, according to a recent analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Fox Business’ Megan Henney and Jacqui Heinrich contributed to this report.