An effort by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to include a $15 minimum wage in President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan despite opposition from lawmakers—including eight Democrats—and a key Senate rules and procedures advisor failed on Friday as the Senate embarked on a marathon voting session to advance the sweeping relief package.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) expresses his exasperation on February 12, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
The vote was still open as of 2:00 p.m. EST as negotiations among Democrats regarding upcoming amendment votes delayed the Senate’s proceedings, but the vote count ahead of the official tally indicated that the measure would not succeed.
Eight Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the amendment: Sens. Krysten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, two vocal critics of the provision, along with Sens. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Jon Tester of Montana, Tom Carper of Delaware, Chris Coons of Delaware and Sen. Angus King of Maine (an independent who caucuses with Democrats).
Sanders introduced the amendment in spite of a ruling last month by a key Senate advisor that a wage hike could not be included in the bill because of the special budget reconciliation rules Democrats are using to advance the legislation.
Those rules will allow Democrats to pass Biden’s aggressive stimulus proposal with a simple majority in the Senate rather than the usual 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster, but they also require that every provision in the legislation have a direct impact on the federal budget.
As he introduced his amendment on Friday, Sanders called the Senate parliamentarian’s decision “unfortunate and misguided.”
He added: “In my view, an unelected staffer in the Senate should not be in charge of determining whether 32 million workers in America receive a raise.”
In the aftermath of the vote, Sanders said he wasn’t surprised by the Democratic defections and vowed to continue working towards legislation to raise the national minimum wage. “If we have to vote on it time and time again, we will,” he said. “And we’re gonna succeed.”
Sanders is not alone in his desire to include the wage hike in the rescue package, despite the ruling. Many progressives, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), have urged Biden to overrule the decision. The White House has been adamant that it does not intend to do so.
Top Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) briefly considered an alternative approach to raise the wage that would impose tax penalties on large corporations that pay less than $15 per hour, but moved away from that effort in order to expedite the bill’s passage.
Democratic leaders have said they are confident Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan will be finalized and signed into law before the existing tranche of enhanced federal unemployment benefits expires on March 14. After a special legislative period called a “vote-a-rama” on Friday, where senators will be able to offer unlimited amendments like Sanders’ to the bill, the Senate will vote on the final bill and send it to the House, which must vote to approve the Senate’s changes before the package can be sent to Biden’s desk for signature. Final Senate passage could come as soon as this weekend.
Senate Readies More Changes To Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Relief Bill After Eliminating $15 Minimum Wage And Narrowing Stimulus Check Eligibility (Forbes)
McConnell Says Republicans Will Fight Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Bill ‘In Every Way That We Can’ (Forbes)
A $15 Minimum Wage Can’t Be Included In Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Plan, Senate Official Rules (Forbes)
I’m a breaking news reporter for Forbes focusing on economic policy and capital markets. I completed my master’s degree in business and economic reporting at New York