President Joe Biden proposed increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour as part of his $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal that members of Congress have started to debate.
“No one in America should work 40 hours a week making below the poverty line,” Biden said last week.
“Fifteen dollars gets people above the poverty line.”
Some Republicans are open to exploring an increase but don’t support raising the minimum wage all the way to $15, warning of potential job losses, according to Fox Business.
Senate Democrats are able to push the bill forward with their narrow majority, but would need all 50 members of their caucus to get behind it, assuming that no Republican colleagues support it and that the legislation can overcome procedural challenges.
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucuses with the Democrats, unveiled a bill this week — backed by 37 other Senate Democrats — to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 over five years.
He said that he was fine if no Republicans “come on board,” claiming the government needs to put more money into the economy so “people are not working on starvation wages.”
Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rep. Tom Reed of New York have urged Biden to deal with a minimum wage increase in a bill separate from COVID-19 relief.
“The more you throw into this bucket of COVID relief that’s not really related to the crisis, the more you risk the credibility with the American people that you’re really sincere about the crisis,” Reed said.
Murkowski added that including the wage increase in the relief package “complicates politically an initiative that we should all be working together to address.”
Many states have their own minimum wage laws, but the federal minimum wage still sits at $7.25 an hour.
The House had passed legislation to gradually increase the minimum wage in the last Congress, but it reached a roadblock in the Senate.
Increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour would increase the wages of 17 million Americans, and 10 million more people who make over the minimum wage would likely see a boost as well, according to a 2019 Congressional Budget Office study.
However, an estimated 1.3 million others would lose their jobs altogether, the study said.
“There’s no question that raising the minimum wage, especially to $15, will put some small businesses out of business and will cost a lot of low-wage workers their jobs,” said Neil Bradley, the chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, according to Fox Business.
The Chamber of Commerce currently opposes $15 an hour, but Bradley said, “We’re open to a reasonable increase in the minimum wage and that ought to be a topic of discussion. But, you know, including that in the COVID package just imperils the whole thing.”
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