$15 Minimum Wage Hopes Dimmed for Millions

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Number of the Day

The Balance

That’s the number of workers who might have seen higher earnings if a $15 minimum wage proposal hadn't run into a major impediment in the Senate Thursday. 

A measure in President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 economic rescue bill would have raised the federal minimum wage from its current $7.25 to $15 by 2025. Democrats tried to use a Senate loophole—budget reconciliation—to get the measure passed without Republican support, since reconciliation only needs just a simple majority. But that backfired after an obscure non-partisan Senate official, the parliamentarian, an advisor on rules and procedures, ruled that it could not be voted on during the reconciliation process.

The measure would have given a pay raise to some 32 million workers, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank.

To be sure, the wage increase measure was never guaranteed smooth sailing, since it would have required broad Democratic cooperation in a Senate that is divided 50-50 between the two parties, and at least one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, had argued that an $11 minimum wage would be more appropriate. 

Democratic leaders, however, refuse to go down without a fight. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was still committed to passing a higher minimum wage (though he did not specify how); House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the measure would remain in the rescue bill regardless; and representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota called for the parliamentarian to simply be replaced. 

“What’s a Democratic majority if we can’t pass our priority bills? This is unacceptable,” Omar posted on Twitter.