Mar 5, 2021 - Politics & Policy

8 Senate Democrats vote against adding $15 minimum wage to COVID relief

Bernie Sanders

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Eight Democratic senators on Friday voted against Sen. Bernie Sanders' amendment to ignore a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian and add a $15 minimum wage provision to the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

The state of play: The vote was held open for hours on Friday afternoon — even after every senator had voted — due to a standoff in negotiations over the next amendments that the Senate will take up.

  • Senate Democrats had struck an agreement on an amendment that would shrink supplemental unemployment benefits from $400 per week to $300, while extending the program until September and making $10,200 of the benefits non-taxable.
  • But Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) appeared to be undecided as of 2:30 p.m. and was considering voting for a dueling amendment by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), which would cut the benefit to $300 per week and see it expire in July. In a 50-50 Senate, the moderate Manchin's vote carries a lot more weight.

Why it matters: Sanders' $15 minimum wage amendment was virtually guaranteed to fail, as it would have required 60 votes. But the defection of eight Democrats shows that support for hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour as part of COVID relief may be weaker in the Senate than many progressives believed.

Between the lines: The Senate parliamentarian ruled last week that the provision violated budget reconciliation rules, which allow major legislation to be passed with a simple majority if they affect the government's finances, and should be removed.

  • President Biden had supported raising the $15 minimum wage as part of COVID relief, but said he would accept the ruling of the parliamentarian. Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, pushed for the Senate to overrule the parliamentarian.
  • It's possible that the Democrats who rejected Sanders' amendment support a minimum wage hike, but voted "no" because they oppose it as part of COVID relief or respect the parliamentarian's ruling. Biden and other Democrats have expressed support for a standalone bill to raise the minimum wage.

Details ... Democratic senators who voted against the provision include:

  • Joe Manchin (W.Va. )
  • Jon Tester (Mt.)
  • Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.)
  • Angus King (Maine, independent who caucuses with Democrats)
  • Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.)
  • Tom Carper (Del.)
  • Chris Coons (Del.)
  • Maggie Hassan (N.H.)

What they're saying: "If any Senator believes this is the last time they will cast a vote on whether or not to give a raise to 32 million Americans, they are sorely mistaken. We’re going to keep bringing it up, and we’re going to get it done because it is what the American people demand and need," Sanders tweeted after the vote.

The bottom line: Senators who didn't stand behind the increase on Friday are likely to be targeted by progressives.

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