Democratic Senators Plot Path Forward On Raising Minimum Wage

Senate Democrats are slated to discuss the next steps toward raising the federal minimum wage on Tuesday, according to a Democratic source.

The meeting is the party’s first attempt at restarting efforts to hike the minimum wage after a progressive push to include a $15 per hour minimum wage in the COVID-19 relief bill died earlier this month.

Seven Democrats ― Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.); Chris Coons (Del.); Tom Carper (Del.); Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.); Maggie Hassan (N.H.); and Jon Tester (Mont.) ― as well as one independent, Sen. Angus King (Maine), voted with the Republicans against including the $15 minimum wage in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

Tuesday’s meeting will include Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), relevant committee chairs including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) ― and the seven moderates who voted against Sanders’ $15 minimum wage proposal.

Sanders’ bill would have given an estimated 27 million workers raises over the next four years and pulled more than 1 million out of poverty, according to recent estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. 

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, which has not been increased in more than a decade. Sanders’ amendment would also have eliminated the tipped minimum age, which allows employers to pay a lower base wage as long as the workers receive gratuities. The tipped minimum wage is currently $2.13 per hour.

The prospect for raising the minimum wage will ultimately depend on bipartisan cooperation, as well as a unified Democratic caucus. 

Manchin, in particular, has said he wants a more narrow increase to $11 an hour over the next two years in order to shield business owners. He’s been trying to convince Republicans to back his proposal, handing out cards detailing his plan to GOP senators including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has also expressed an interest in raising the federal minimum wage.

“I personally support an increase in the minimum wage ― not to $15 ― but I think we need one,” she said last month.

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