Senate to Debate on COVID-19 Bill This Week after Democrats Backpedal on Minimum Wage

The U.S. Senate will start debating President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill this week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday after Democrats backed down from an effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 as part of it.

The backpedaling did not end hopes of addressing the minimum wage issue in Congress. Democrats and some Republicans have voiced support for the idea of raising the minimum wage, now $7.25, for the first time since 2009, though they disagree on how much.

Republican Senator Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton last week proposed an increase to $10 per hour, but said employers should also verify the wage is going to workers who are legally in the United States.

But two Senate Democrats acknowledged that passing an increase would be challenging in the 50-50 chamber.

The House of Representatives narrowly approved the COVID-19 package, one of Biden’s top priorities, and aim to pass it through Senate through a maneuver known as “reconciliation,” which would allow the bill to pass with a simple majority rather than the 60 votes normally required by that chamber’s rules.

Senate debate on the COVID-19 bill could begin as early as Wednesday, a Senate Democratic aide said.

Senate Democrats over the weekend gave up on the idea trying to pass the wage hike by adding tax penalties to the COVID-19 bill, after earlier being told Senate rules governing “reconciliation” prevented them including a straight-up wage hike to the legislation.

There are also political hurdles: Some moderate Democrats, including Senator Joe Manchin, have rejected the $15 figure as too high and suggested an $11 target could be more realistic.

“We worked through the weekend and it became clear that finalizing ‘plan B’ with the caucus would delay passage and risk going over the jobless benefits cliff on March 14,” one source said. Democrats want the COVID-19 bill signed into law by March 14, when enhanced unemployment benefits expire.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, voiced hope that a wage hike would still happen.

“Senator Sanders is determined to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and he is looking at all available strategies to make it happen,” a source close to Sanders said.

The Senate’s number two Democrat, Dick Durbin, said lawmakers should look for another venue to raise the minimum wage, but that it will be a challenge.

“If it takes some 60 votes or a supermajority of some kind, it’s going to be very difficult, obviously,” Durbin told reporters.

Another Democrat, Senator Richard Blumenthal, said he was optimistic the Democrats would find a way to raise the wage, “even though we may not have the votes right now.”

CLOCK TICKING

In the meantime, the Senate faces a looming deadline to pass the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill before the middle of the month, when enhanced unemployment benefits run out for the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs during the pandemic, which has killed more than 500,000 in the United States.

Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris may have to cast a tie-breaking vote in a chamber where Republicans control 50 seats and Democrats and their allies control the other 50. Even this outcome depends on all the Democrats staying united behind the first major bill to come through Congress in the Biden administration.

Republicans in Congress say the plan is too expensive and includes things like transportation projects that have nothing to do with relief for COVID-19.

“It’s $1.9 trillion, more than half of it won’t even be spent in this calendar year … So how could it be about COVID relief? No one expects a year from now that we’ll be in the COVID crisis we are in now,” Republican Senator Rob Portman told ABC’s “This Week.”

The coronavirus measure would pay for vaccines and send a new round of aid to households, small businesses and state and local governments. The big-ticket items include $1,400 direct payments to individuals, a $400-per-week federal unemployment benefit through Aug. 29, and help for those in difficulty paying rents and home mortgages during the pandemic.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell and David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)

Responses

  1. Bernie is going to force a vote on the $15 min wage!

    Step #1 is done. It will be included in the Senate bill.

    See? Coercion works! Now we have to go after Kamala Harris, Chuck Schumer, K Sinema, and last but not least, Joe Manchin!

    Now, step #2. Go get’em. #dontkillitkamala

    Who is Harris going to go along with – an unelected advisor or keeping her promise to 32 million poor Americans?

    1. General, I admire your tenacity, but let’s stick with reality. HAS Bernie claimed he has the votes for passage?

      BERNIE and Warren ran on $15 minimum wage, M4A, getting rid of the filibuster—Senators Sinema and Manchin DID NOT. Manchin got re-elected pledging to NOT vote to eliminate the filibuster. So, Reps. AOC & Jayapal and Senators Warren & Sanders can make all the fantasy calls they want. But without THEM getting the votes needed to pass what they CLAIM needs to occur, it is NOT occurring simply because they say so.

      VP Harris can only vote to ignore the Parliamentarian IF BERNIE find 50 Senators voting to ignore it. At least TWO D’s are not voting to ignore the interpretation of the Senate rules. Sooo, WHO are the Republicans you see Bernie convincing? The White House has REPEATEDLY stated that VP Harris will NOT overturn the decision of the Parliamentarian.

      I get it that YOU are not a fan of Sen. Manchin. Please keep in mind that without Manchin, Mitch McConnell would remain Majority leader.

      Keep in mind that the last time D’s got R’s to vote for an increase in the minimum wage, it was tucked into a defense spending bill in 2007.

      1. There are four steps to getting this passed, Phyllis. This was only step #1. The next step is coercing Kamala Harris because she doesn’t really want it, either. If SHE refuses to give 32 million low paid workers a $92 billion per year raise after promising one, tell me what her chances of becoming president are? Next to zero.

        #dontkillitkamala

        And Matt Gaetz is a tool.

      2. “VP Harris can only vote to ignore the Parliamentarian IF BERNIE find 50 Senators voting to ignore it.” Phyllis

        No, that is incorrect, Phyllis.

        The bill came over from the House with the min wage bill attached. It is the Budget chair’s job to write the Senate’s version of the bill. He just said that it WILL be in the Senate bill.

        Step #2
        2-a Now, either Chuck Schumer is going to overrule the Budget chair and write the bill himself and leave it out, which would be highly unusual, or he won’t because he has said many times that HE wants $15. O.K., so which is it? Does he really mean it or did he lie? Does he write it out or does he keep his promise to 32 million low-wage voters? Why would he fail them?

        “The White House has REPEATEDLY stated that VP Harris will NOT overturn the decision of the Parliamentarian.” Phyllis

        2-b Now the presiding officer of the Senate is the Veep. She COULD also say that she will break HER promise AND the president’s promise of $15 to 32 million low-wage workers. She would have to deliberately side with Moscow Mitch to take it out, though. Why would she do that? Because of an UNELECTED ADVISOR with NO power? Are you kidding me? Just let her try and her political future is done, finished, she will NEVER be president.

        Once she signs on, we go to step three with the two conservative idjits. They either sign on, too, or they fight. What makes you think that they can win? Because they said so? Give me a break. If Kamala signs on, and I am certain that she will given the obvious cost, so will Sinema and Manchin for EXACTLY the same reason. Are Sinema and Manchin going to deny all Americans COVID relief because they wanted them to continue suffering with LOWER wages? They could, but they would be tarred and feathered as soon as they went back to their states!

        Let’s say that all Democrats sign on. Moscow Mitch would then likely want to object and try to overrule the chair. The great news here is that, because Joke Biden, Sinema and Machin decided to keep the filibuster, for Moscow Mitch to object and win, HE would now need 60 votes to overrule the chair! He won’t get them, obviously. We win!

        Step #4
        If Moscow Mitch can’t overrule the chair, then he has one last option and it is wonderfully ironic. He would have to ask for a 50-vote margin straight up and down vote to kill the filibuster regarding the votes of the presiding officer of the Senate. Do you think that Sinema and Manchin are going to go against their pledge to not touch their precious filibuster just so that they can deny 32 million low-wage workers a raise, including many in their own states? Really? Come on!

      3. “HAS Bernie claimed he has the votes for passage?” Phyllis

        That’s the trick, Phyllis!

        The whole point of making sure that the minimum wage bill gets included (aside from the most obvious reason – millions need to earn more) is to ensure that ALL American Fascists and ALL Democrats sign their name, one way or another, as to how they want their constituents to see them vote. This is extremely import, for 2022. Voters will KNOW who to vote for or NOT vote for ever again. Make them go on the record, then we know who to primary. Primaries are EVERYTHING.

    1. Lier means he is reclining. Is that what you intended to say?

      Did you call “former guy” a “putz” when Mexico did not agree to pay for the wall? Or when “former guy” claimed he was not signing the stimulus without $2K check? He signed it and you got $600. Biden is giving you the $1,400 balance “former guy” promised you.

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