Biden says minimum wage increase probably not 'going to survive' as part of COVID-19 relief package

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Sarah Elbeshbishi, USA TODAY
·4 min read
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President Joe Biden says his proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour is unlikely to make it into the final $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package after negotiations with Congress.

Biden, who advocated for a minimum wage increase before the pandemic began, has pitched the idea as an effective way to help working-class Americans cope with the economic consequences of the crisis.

"No one should work 40 hours a week and live below the poverty wage. And if you’re making less than $15 an hour, you’re living below the poverty wage," the president told CBS Evening News host Norah O’Donnell on Friday. But he conceded that his plan to raise the federal minimum rate did not look likely to be a part of the new relief legislation.

"I put it in, but I don't think it's going to survive," he said.

Many Republicans opposed Biden’s attempt to raise the federal minimum wage, and some Democrats also had concerns.

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Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., told reporters last week that he doesn’t support increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. But Manchin, a moderate Democrat, said he supports a smaller increase.

"I’m supportive of an increase that’s responsible and reasonable," Manchin said, "and in my state that’s $11." Manchin added that the increased rate should account for inflation.

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa said she was concerned about raising the minimum wage during the pandemic.

"A $15 federal minimum wage would be devastating for our hardest-hit small businesses at a time when they can least afford it," Ernst said.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., echoed Ernst, tweeting Saturday that "Raising the minimum wage amid a pandemic is a tone-deaf idea authored by Washington elites."

Scott co-sponsored Ernst's amendment Thursday night to prevent a federal minimum wage increase to $15 an hour amid the pandemic.

Despite the roadblocks Biden’s push to raise the wage has faced, he does have the support of progressive Democrats, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who indicated he had not given up on the possibility of including the wage increase in the relief package.

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"The budget resolution the Senate passed today puts us on a path to finally raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour," Sanders tweeted Friday. "It is a moral imperative in the richest country in the world that no one is forced to live on a starvation wage, and the American Rescue Plan will get it done."

Sanders has backed a phased minimum wage increase. Democrats proposed to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, raising it in five steps in the coming years.

Although Senate Democrats have promised future legislation to increase the federal minimum wage, the Senate faced criticism for not including it in the latest package.

"Your reminder that 67% of Americans support raising minimum wage to $15 hour but it can be filibustered by 41 Republican senators," Robert Riech, former secretary of labor under the Clinton administration, tweeted Saturday. "The Senate is broken."

Biden told O’Donnell that if his "guess" that the minimum wage increase won't be included in the relief package, he is prepared to negotiate a separate bill to make it happen. And he plans to continue to push the issue, which was part of his platform on the campaign trail and which he discussed at his first major campaign rally in Pittsburgh in April 2019.

The last time Congress passed legislation to increase the federal minimum wage was in 2007, when it was raised to $7.25 an hour. Since then, at least 29 states and Washington, D.C., have raised their minimum wages on their own.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Joe Biden says minimum wage hike unlikely to stay in COVID-19 relief