Feb 3, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Progressives relish Biden's tweet in support of minimum wage policy

Rep. Pramila Jayapal. Photo: Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images

Rep. Pramila Jayapal said Wednesday that when she feared a $15 minimum wage was about to be cut from President Biden's COVID relief package, she and her staff urged the White House to have progressives’ backs. Biden tweeted within the hour.

Why it matters: Former President Trump was famous for his use of Twitter, particularly to advance his own causes and beliefs, but now Democrats are enjoying a new bully pulpit to blast their narratives and policies to the masses.

Progressives believe that by successfully shaping a political narrative they can significantly influence policy — especially since some of their more moderate Democratic Senate colleagues like Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) have their own power to blunt momentum and key pieces of the left's agenda.

  • "We have been trying to be more deliberate about ... deciding what our asks are for any bill, early, and then distilling them to three or four or five key priorities for the Progressive Caucus," Jayapal said. "And we're trying to get better at sending out those talking points every week that people can message on."
  • Jayapal (D-Wash.) has been championing raising the federal minimum wage to $15 for years. In 2014, she was appointed to the Seattle mayor's income inequality task force, which put together a successful proposal to raise the minimum wage in the city that year.
  • The Congressional Progressive Caucus, which Jayapal leads, also made clear in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer last week that including the $15 minimum wage in the COVID package is non-negotiable.

What they're saying: Jayapal relayed the Twitter story Wednesday morning during a Congressional Progressive Caucus meeting. The Zoom call was joined by more than 140 members and staffers.

  • “I called the White House, our staff called the White House, and said, ‘We want the president to weigh in with a tweet about how essential it is to put $15 in the reconciliation package,’” she said.
  • The White House responded almost immediately, with a tweet from @POTUS: "It’s long past time we raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The American Rescue Plan will get it done."

Sen. Bernie Sanders has been leading Senate efforts to include raising the federal minimum wage in the Biden package.

  • A person familiar with his approach told Axios that Sanders is pursuing an "inside-outside" strategy.
  • He wants to ensure it is included in the final package by engaging with the Senate parliamentarian, championing the measure during cable news interviews and joining Congressional Progressive Caucus calls to discuss the issue.
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