The progressive push to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour has gained momentum in recent years — but even the inauguration of President Joe Biden does not appear to guarantee victory.
Much to the chagrin of some Democratic lawmakers, recent reports indicate that Biden is not optimistic that such a wage hike will be feasible as part of the next round of COVID-19 relief.
Problem lies in reconciliation
Of course, that does not mean the president is opposed to raising the minimum wage to $15 nationwide. Instead, he is reportedly only concerned about including the raise in his proposed stimulus package.
The primary reason for his reluctance appears to be the fact that congressional Democrats plan to pass the bill using reconciliation — a process that will allow them to force it through the Senate with a simple majority.
With the Senate evenly split between the two parties, Vice President Kamala Harris represents the tie-breaking vote, which means that if all Democrats vote in support of the package it will pass without the need for any GOP support at all.
That might appear to be an ideal opportunity for Democrats to include a proposal like raising the minimum wage, but Biden is said to be opposed to such a strongarm tactic.
His first hint that he was against the idea came during a CBS News interview earlier this month. In a subsequent meeting with a group of mayors and governors, he confirmed his position.
“I’m not going to give up”
“I really want this in there but it just doesn’t look like we can do it because of reconciliation,” he said. “I’m not going to give up. But right now, we have to prepare for this not making it.”
Although he has received some pushback from within his own party for taking such a position, he appears to be sticking to his guns.
Nevertheless, White House spokesman Mike Gwin issued a statement confirming that Biden still favors the concept of raising the federal minimum wage.
“President Biden has been consistent in private and public about his commitment to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which is why he included it in his first major piece of legislation,” Gwin said. “That commitment will remain unshaken whether or not this can be done through reconciliation.”
Taking a different point of view, however, is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a major proponent of a minimum wage hike, who said this week that he believes the proposal will be allowed to stand as part of the COVID-19 relief bill even as it is set to pass via reconciliation.