WASHINGTON—President Biden and Democratic allies are trying to resolve the remaining disputes over the coronavirus relief package, which is expected to be taken up in the Senate this week, despite frustration among some Democrats over the exclusion of a minimum-wage increase, the Wall Street Journal reports.
A federal minimum wage of $15 an hour is a key goal of the Biden Administration, but economists and lawmakers disagree on the potential impact. Where the minimum-wage issue goes from here is uncertain.
The president and Senate Democratic leaders made clear that a gradual increase in the federal pay floor to $15 an hour from the current $7.25, passed as part of the $1.9 trillion House legislation Saturday, wouldn’t happen in this bill. That eased tensions with Senate centrists who opposed the $15 wage but put new pressure on progressives to swallow their disappointment and coalesce around the president’s first legislative push.
Senate Democrats had tried late last week to see if they could fashion a way to penalize large companies through the tax code if they didn’t pay workers at least $15 an hour. That proposal was floated after the Senate parliamentarian said that a minimum-wage boost didn’t comply with the rules on reconciliation, a process established in 1974 allows Congress to change existing laws so they can adapt tax and spending levels to the levels set in a budget resolution. As NACS Daily reported earlier this week, the parliamentarian said the proposed wage hike does not meet the guidelines for reconciliation and would be ruled out of order.
Progressive Democrats have been urging Senate leaders to ignore the parliamentarian’s advice and retain the wage boost, but the White House said it wouldn’t support taking that step. Democrats have said that that even if they don’t have enough votes now to boost the minimum wage, they will look for another path to achieve that goal.
Meanwhile, many in the Senate have shifted to focusing on how the stimulus will be allocated. Within the current rendition of the bill, $1,400 stimulus checks are included for most Americans, along with $350 billion in funding for state and local governments. The relief package would also include funding for vaccine distribution, as well as an extention of federal unemployment aid, the child tax credit, food stamp programs and schools. Due to the removal of the minimum wage provision and other changes being made in the Senate the legislation will have to be sent back to the House for another vote before it can reach President Biden’s desk.
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