Politics Everything you need to know about the minimum wage debate
$15 minimum wage debate: Everything you need to know
House Democrats have included a minimum wage hike in their latest Covid relief bill, although opposition among some Senate Democrats means it is not at all clear they will have the votes to pass it. © Scott Olson/Getty Images Demonstrators participate in a protest outside of McDonald's corporate headquarters on January 15, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. Improving worker pay is unrelated in that raising the minimum wage has long been a Democratic priority.
The last time the federal minimum wage increased was back in 2009, when it rose to $7.25 per hour. Prior to the three-step increase passed by Congress in 2007, the amount had sat at $5.15 per hour for a decade despite falling behindand .
Activists have wagedfor an increase to $15 per hour, and President Biden has said he wants to enact that raise into law. “There should be a national minimum wage of $15 an hour,” he said last month. “Nobody working 40 hours a week should be living below the poverty line.”
Raising the minimum wage is supported by a majority of Americans, withfinding 52 percent in favor of raising it to $15 per hour, versus 37 percent in opposition. has found support for $15 per hour in the low 60s earlier this month finding that 83 percent of Americans agreed the current $7.25 per hour wasn’t high enough.
The problem with a one-size-fits-all federal minimum wage hike
Minimum wages are not a free good. They have tradeoffs. While politicians might not pay much mind to such economic arguments, they are well aware of the regional differences among their constituents. If they listen, they should reject a one-size-fits-all federal minimum wage hike and, instead, let cities and states make decisions that best suit the people in their communities.Ryan Young is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and author of the study "Minimum Wages Have Tradeoffs.
Minimum wage increases have also found success at the ballot box, even in states won by former President Donald Trump. In 2018,opted to raise the minimum wage there to $11 per hour by 2021. That same year, 62 percent of Missouri voters approved an initiative to raise the rate to $12 per hour by 2023. And even as Democrats struggled in Florida in November, 60 percent of voters there supported an initiative that would incrementally raise the state minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026.
Here’s what Biden has proposed and what Republicans have countered with when it comes to legislation raising the minimum wage.
Tom Cotton, Mitt Romney's $10 Minimum Wage Plan Criticized for Being Less than Arkansas' $11
"Incrementally increasing a pitiful 7.25 wage to $10 over 5 yrs is a cruel joke. Poverty cannot be overcome just by $2.75/hour more," Democratic Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib wrote.The GOP plan, entitled the Higher Wages for American Workers Act, would gradually raise the federal minimum wage from its current rate of $7.25 an hour to $10 an hour by 2025. The plan would also require employers to phase in the use of the federal E-Verify system to ensure that only documented laborers, and not undocumented immigrants, are hired. Lastly, the plan would provide stiffer penalties to employers who hire undocumented workers.
As part of its $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the Biden administration included a provision to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour over the course of five years.
The wage hike has two key supporters in Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, but that may not be enough to be able to include it in the bill congressional Democrats hope to send to Biden to sign by mid-March.
First, the Senate parliamentarian would have to allow the minimum wage increase to be included in a process called reconciliation, which would allow Democrats to pass the legislation with just 50 votes. If that was allowed, the Democrats would then need to get all 50 members of their caucus on board, with the tiebreaking vote then set to be cast by Vice President Kamala Harris.
That would likely be an issue, as Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have expressed their opposition to the increase. It’s unlikely a Republican senator would cross over to give Democrats their 50th vote, meaning the final package has to appease the party’s most moderate senators, even if that falls short of the package proposed by Biden and approved by Democrats in the House.
Prospects for a $15 federal minimum wage look bleak
But some US senators, including Bernie Sanders and Josh Hawley, are proposing alternatives to raising the wage.Democrats were pushing to include an increase in the federal minimum wage as part of a proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus package, but its fate has likely been determined: On Feb. 25, the US Senate’s parliamentarian said that hiking the minimum wage to $15, as the Democrats sought to do, could not be included in the bill, arguing it falls outside the scope of what the Democrats can do in the budget reconciliation process.
, “$11 is the right place to be,” seeking a lower number. “Throwing $15 out there right now just makes it very difficult in rural America.”
Biden has opened the door to lowering the target ratethat though he supports $15, “that’s a debatable issue.”
“Let’s say you said you’re going to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour between now and the year 2025 to $12 an hour, to $13 an hour — you’d double someone’s pay and the impact on business would be absolutely de minimis, and it would grow the GDP,” Biden said, adding that “it’s totally legitimate for small business owners to be concerned about how that changes.”
Biden had conceded in an interview with CBS News earlier this month that he didn’t think the minimum wage increase would survive in the COVID-19 relief package.
In addition to attempting to include the minimum wage increase in COVID relief legislation,, a separate bill that would reach the $15 target by 2025. , but it died in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Democrats’ remaining options for raising the minimum wage, explained
Democrats haven’t given up on increasing the minimum wage just yet.That decision likely means that the $15 minimum wage is effectively dead — for now. As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has said repeatedly, 10 Republican senators are not going to sign on to this type of increase, meaning lawmakers won’t be able to get the 60 votes it needs to pass through regular order.
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the $7.25 federal minimum wage was economically and morally indefensible,” said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., in a statement with the reintroduction of the bill. “Now the pandemic is highlighting the gross imbalance between the productivity of our nation’s workers and the wages they are paid.”
A report from the Congressional Budget Office found that the $15 increase in that time frame would pull 900,000 people out of poverty but cost 1.4 million jobs. The White House has pushed back on those findings,, “Look, we saw the budget office estimates. We don't think that's true. We've looked at states who have raised the minimum wage in the past, and those states actually had job growth.”
“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,”. “That commitment will remain unshaken.”
GOP Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Tom Cotton of Arkansas announced their own minimum wage proposal on Tuesday, tying an increase to $10 per hour by 2025 to an expansion of the E-Verify program, which would make it more difficult for businesses to hire undocumented immigrants.
Democrats wrong to attack Senate parliamentarian
The path forward on the minimum wage is not procedural wizardry but leveraging the proposal’s broad public popularity.Democrats have known all along that some provisions they wanted to include in the relief bill might not meet the requirements for budget reconciliation. Chief among these was their proposed stepped increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Superficially, that looks more like a regulatory initiative rather than a fiscal one.
"Our legislation would raise the floor for workers without costing jobs," Romney said. "We must create opportunities for American workers and protect their jobs while also eliminating one of the key drivers of illegal immigration.”
Critics of the proposal have noted that Arkansas, which Cotton represents, has already implemented an $11-per-hour rate despiteWhen asked about this Tuesday, that it’s still $7.25 in many states.
"We're trying to reach the broadest coalition of senators of both parties as possible,”. “Ten dollars seems like a reasonable wage in many states with lower labor costs."
Leading progressives have blasted the proposal.
“When members of Congress fight to set the minimum wage below a living wage, they are playing a role in creating and preserving poverty in the United States,” tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. “The $15/hr proposal with multi-year phase in is already a deep compromise. $10 an hour is legislated poverty.”
On Wednesday, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.,, calling for a refundable tax credit to Americans making $16.50 or less per hour. The program would be open to those with Social Security numbers only, meaning non-U.S. citizens and undocumented immigrants would not be eligible.
"The bill is targeting folks who are making $34,000 to $35,000 a year and less," Hawley told Axios. "This is targeted toward people who have been the hardest hit, who are trying to get back on their feet."
Read more from Yahoo News:
Lindsey Graham Offers 'Waffle House' Plan to Dems Worried About $15 Minimum Wage .
"I don't mind looking at increasing the minimum wage in a responsible way," Graham said. "That will be easier for business and get us to where we want to go."Graham's plan, suggested to him by representatives from the national restaurant chain Waffle House, would index minimum wage increases to inflation. His plan could also soothe Machin's worries that the Democrats' proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 would endanger small businesses already harmed by the pandemic's economic downturn.