Friday, 16 Apr 2021

Minimum wage increase seems poised to fail as 7 Democrats vote against the measure.

The Senate was poised on Friday to reject a bid by Democrats to increase the federal minimum wage as part of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, with senators in both parties registering their opposition to the move.

As of late Friday afternoon, the vote on the proposal, which would raise the wage to $15 an hour by 2025, had stalled as Democrats haggled among themselves over a separate provision in the package related to the size and duration of federal unemployment payments.

But all signs pointed to the minimum wage increase provision being doomed, with a 42-58 vote hanging out in limbo, well short of the 60 votes it would need to be advanced. Seven Democrats and one independent aligned with them had joined all 50 Republicans in opposing the increase.

The Democrats voting against the proposal were Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Tom Carper and Chris Coons of Delaware, and Jon Tester of Montana. Senator Angus King, the independent from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats, also voted no.

The vote remained open for more than three hours as Democrats struggled to coalesce around an amendment that would keep a weekly federal supplement to unemployment benefits at $300 — rather than raising it to $400 as a bill passed by the House would do — but extend the payments for more weeks. Because the vote has not yet closed, senators could still change their votes, though it is unlikely they would choose to do so.

While Mr. Biden included the minimum wage increase in his stimulus proposal and the House passed it as part of its version of the package, a top Senate official, Elizabeth MacDonough, ruled that it could not be included in the bill under the strict rules governing the reconciliation process, which protects legislation from filibusters and allows it to pass with a simple majority. Democrats are using reconciliation to fast-track the bill through the Senate.

Liberal lawmakers and activists argued that Democrats should overrule Ms. MacDonough’s guidance and push through the proposal anyway over Republican opposition. But the margin of defeat showed that they would not have had the votes to pass it unilaterally even if they had tried to do so.

Instead, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the chairman of the Budget Committee, offered an amendment to add the provision during a marathon of rapid-fire proposals, known as a vote-a-rama, that began late Friday morning.

Moderate Democrats who rejected the increase signaled that they would be willing to negotiate once the stimulus package became law.

“Senators in both parties have shown support for raising the federal minimum wage, and the Senate should hold an open debate and amendment process on raising the minimum wage, separate from the Covid-focused reconciliation bill,” Ms. Sinema said in a statement.

Ms. Sinema became an immediate target of progressive ire after her vote, which she signified with a dramatic thumbs-down motion, evoking a similar gesture made by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, in 2017 when he cast the decisive vote to kill a proposal by his party to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act. Ms. Sinema has previously described Mr. McCain as one of her political idols.

Mr. Sanders, a longtime champion of raising the federal minimum wage, which has not been changed since 2009, vowed to keep pressing on the legislation.

“If anybody thinks that we’re giving up on this issue, they are sorely mistaken,” Mr. Sanders told reporters. “If we have to vote on it time and time again, we will — and we’re going to succeed.”

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