Democrats in the Senate are looking for another way to increase the wages of Americans after a Senate official ruled that a minimum wage hike should be removed from President Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus proposal in Congress.
According to a senior aide, who decided to share information on the condition of anonymity, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Majority Leader, was thinking of amending the $1.9-trillion proposal that includes a provision to penalize large companies who failed to pay their workers at least $15 per hour. However, the provisions to this were unavailable.
Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chair, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), stated that he plans to amend the stimulus plan so that it will tax the total payroll of corporations by 5% if their employees earned less than a certain amount. Wyden’s proposal will also entail income tax credits for small businesses. This would be up to 35% of wages and up to $10,000 annually per employer if they give higher wages.
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Additionally, on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders stated that he would collaborate with his fellow senators to amend the bill. He wanted to work on stripping tax breaks from large corporations that fail to pay their employees at least $15 an hour. He also wanted to grant incentives to small businesses so that they can raise wages.
Senate Parliamentarian Says Provision Needs to Be Excluded From COVID-19 Relief Plan
On Thursday, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that the provision which raises the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 by 2025 would need to be removed from the COVID-19 relief proposal. Instead, it should be as a standalone bill or a part of another proposal. The changes that the senators plan to propose would also be ruled upon by MacDonough.
This ruling comes as the said relief bill is being discussed under “reconciliation rules” that can bypass the filibuster and let a simple majority pass the proposal. Democrats who push for the $15 minimum wage hike say including the said provision to the president’s plan was their best opportunity since a standalone would need more than 10 GOP senators to overcome a filibuster.
Regarding the proposal, White House Press Secretary Jennifer Psaki declined to make a comment. Instead, she said that the proposals are yet to be reviewed by the White House. Psaki also mentioned that they are still searching for “the best ways” to make the minimum wage bigger.
Meanwhile, the House of Representative’s pals to pass its version of the said proposal on Friday, including the $15 wage hike. As per Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House Democrats plan to pursue all the possible ways to approve the wage hike.
Many progressives in the House expressed their dismay when the parliamentarian ruled against the inclusion of the said provision.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) spoke to Capitol Hill reporters regarding the matter. She said that a tax break is not enough of a replacement for a minimum wage hike. However, she stated that Sanders “is doing the right thing” by trying to add something.
Republicans Also Propose Minimum Wage Hike Legislation
Democrats are not the only ones who are trying to propose a minimum wage increase. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), revealed that he plans to propose legislation that requires corporations with yearly revenues above $1 billion to pay their workers a minimum of $15 per hour.
Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton are also proposing a wage hike, but at only $10 per hour. He proposed this, provided that businesses would be required to use the E-Verify system. The said system aims to stop employers from hiring undocumented workers.
At the moment, 31 states in the country have minimum wage laws that would allow some workers to receive less than $10 as hourly pay, as per the Department of Labor. Meanwhile, no state in the U.S. has a minimum wage set at $15 or above.
The Congressional Budget Office released an analysis regarding the impact of a wage hike earlier this month. It found out that increasing the minimum wage to $15 would increase the pay for at least 27 million Americans. It would also help get around 1 million people out of poverty. However, this increase would also cause the loss of 1.4 million jobs.