$15 Dollar Minimum Wage Saga


Arizona Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema voted against raising the minimum wage. Photo from NPR.com

On March 5, 2021, the Senate failed to amend the 2021 Covid relief bill with a raise to the federal minimum wage to $15 with eight Democrats joining every Republican in Congress to vote against the wage increase.

After House Democrats passed their version of the covid relief package, including the wage hike, the senate parliamentarian advised that this provision would violate budgetary rules and is not possible to be part of a budget bill. This set precedent as it meant that a raise of the federal minimum wage could only be achieved with 60 votes to override the filibuster. A figurehead of progressive politics, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, comments on the issue, “Really our options right now, at least our immediate options on this specific issue, is to do something about this parliamentary obstacle or abolish the filibuster”. This decision also caused outrage from a multitude of political activist groups across America that culminated in a letter calling for Vice President, Kamala Harris, to override the Parlementarian’s decision. “As President of the Senate, Vice President Harris has the Constitutional power to disregard the recommendation of the Senate Parliamentarian and include this provision in the COVID relief legislation. The vast bipartisan majority of Americans support this policy”.

During voting of the provision, senator Krysten Sinema is seen giving an enthusiastic thumbs down to the provision which many on social media call “unnecessary” and “a mockery”. The political organization named “No Excuses” responds to the Arizona lawmaker’s actions with a scathing radio ad, playing across the state. “I was genuinely shocked to see her dancing while she voted no… She seems to have no shame and without our votes, she’ll have no job”. The Senator later released a statement on Twitter calling on the Senate to compromise with Republicans on raising the minimum wage on its own without the need for a covid relief bill. Senator Joe Manchin from West  Virginia also created headlines weeks ago in his negative stance against a $15 federal minimum wage which was seen as the only democrat in the way of bringing one of Biden’s campaign promises to reality. In the early days of the
administration, Kamala Harris even spoke in support of the latest relief bill and the local manufacturing jobs in a West Virginian news channel as an attempt to pressure the lawmaker into voting for their ideas. “I saw, I couldn’t believe it. No one called me. We’re going to try to find a bipartisan path forward, but we need to work together. That’s not a way of working together.” said Manchin. New polls coming out of his home state show a majority of Virginians support the $15 minimum wage increase with 63% of residents supporting it via the One Fair Wage