WASHINGTON – A group of Democratic senators joined all Senate Republicans in voting against Sen. Bernie Sanders’ proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour on Friday.
The Vermont independent tried to add the provision to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus bill as the Senate considered the $1.9 trillion measure. But the effort failed in a 58-42 vote with eight members of the Senate Democratic caucus voting against it.
The vote started at 11:03 a.m. EST Friday and didn’t officially end for nearly 12 hours as Democrats and Republicans negotiated changes to an extension of unemployment benefits.
The outcome of the vote could spell trouble for future Democratic attempts to raise the minimum wage, something Biden included in his initial stimulus proposal that passed the House last week.
The eight Democratic caucus members who voted against the measure are:
- Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
- Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V.
- Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.
- Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.
- Sen. Angus King, I-Maine (King is a member of the Democratic caucus)
- Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.
- Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.
- Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.
Sanders, an advocate of the wage hike, said earlier on the Senate floor the issue of raising the minimum wage was a “national emergency.”
He told reporters following the vote he was not surprised by the number of Democrats who voted against it.
“No, we knew exactly what was happening,” he said.
Sanders, in a statement, said this was not the last time he would try to bring up the wage hike for a vote.
“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,” he said.
Sanders had attempted to add the wage hike back into the bill after a key Senate official, the parliamentarian, had ruled it could not stay in the bill. Democrats are using a process called reconciliation to advance the $1.9 trillion legislation. It allows Democrats to pass bills with a simple majority but subjects them to certain rules making it more difficult to include provisions like the minimum wage in the final bill.
Republicans have been united against the $15 proposal, citing opposition by some small businesses and an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office which estimates it would result in the loss of as many as 1.4 million jobs. The same analysis said it would boost the pay for as many as 27 million Americans and would lift nearly 1 million out of poverty.
Higher wages increase the cost to employers of producing goods and services, and those costs are generally passed on to consumers who usually react by purchasing fewer goods and services, according to the CBO. As a consequence, employers faced with having to scale back their output usually cut back their workforce.