In a 27-21 panel vote, the House Committee on Education and Labor approved a $15 per hour minimum wage. This measure will form part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief program. The increase will not happen overnight, but rather gradually until 2025. However, it may not make it through the final, reconciled version of the stimulus program.
Congressional Budget Office Data
Both pro and con parties based their arguments on data from the latest Congressional Budget Office report. The nonpartisan CBO reported that raising the minimum wage to $15 can lift an estimated 900,000 Americans out of poverty. However, it will cost 1.4 million jobs over the next four years. The CBO also projected a $15 minimum wage increases in the federal budget deficit by $54 billion until 2031.
$15 Per Hour Minimum Wage
Democrats championed the $15 per hour minimum wage, saying it will give millions of low-paid workers an income boost during the pandemic. However, Republicans and a few Democrats remain opposed to a national wage. Small businesses may find it hard to afford adjusted costs, especially during an economic recovery.
The opposition may pose a problem later on. The Senate holds an equal number of Republicans and Democrats (with Independents). Even as Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tiebreaker, a single Democrat vote against the measure can kill it. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I- VT) argued that the budget can work. “We can clearly raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour under the rules of reconciliation,” he said.
The panel-approved Democratic proposal starts at setting the minimum wage at $9.50 per hour this year. It then increases to $11 next year. By 2023, the wage will rise to $12.50, and settle at $15 in 2025.
Eventually, the House Budget Committee will combine the Education and Labor Committee’s bill with other panel’s bills to complete the large stimulus program package. Through this reconciliation process, the measure can pass each chamber of Congress via a simple majority. The minimum wage will need more work to get it off the ground. “We’re trying to work as well as we can with the [Senate] parliamentarian to get minimum wage to happen,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) said to media members.
Opposition to the Measure
House Republicans did not come away pleased with the outcome. “Once again, Democrats are ignoring vulnerable, hardworking Americans, choosing instead to favor left-wing special interests and those who support their radical agenda. Forcing children to miss out on a high-quality, in-person education while cherry-picking the schools that receive relief and championing a job-destroying $15 national minimum wage hike is hardly ‘bold relief,’ remarked Representative Virginia Foxx, (NC). Foxx is a member of the Education and Labor panel.
Meanwhile, Representative Elise Stefanik (NY) went to Twitter to complain. “At 3 am, House Democrats voted against my amendment which would have prohibited funds to higher education institutions who partner with the Chinese Communist Party,” she tweeted. Meanwhile, on the Democrat side, Senator Joe Manchin (WV) said he will support the wage hike, but only up to $11 per hour.
Current Minimum Wage
The federal current minimum wage is $7.25, so raising it to $15 would effectively double the rate within the next five years. The last time Congress approved an increase was over 11 years ago in 2009. President Joe Biden pushed for an increase as part of his campaign promises last year. He said that “there should be a national minimum wage of $15 an hour” during his January 14 economic plan presentation. “Nobody working 40 hours a week should be living below the poverty line,” he added.
Without Congressional approval, Biden can only raise the rates for federal workers via executive order. Last January 22, he signed an executive order to have the Office of Personnel Management make recommendations for a $15 an hour wage for federal workers.
Watch the CNBC TV news report that shares both sides of the $15 minimum wage debate:
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