ChrisWeigant.com

Minimum Wage Hike Now Doubtful

[ Posted Monday, March 1st, 2021 – 16:48 UTC ]

The prospects of Democrats scoring a big victory on hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour are getting dimmer and dimmer. Sadly, this is true not just in the current pandemic relief bill, but overall -- because if it isn't included now it's hard to see how it is ever going to pass otherwise. One has to be forgiven for wondering if this was really President Joe Biden's plan all along; that including it in this bill was nothing short of a feint, to provide a lightning rod for Republicans to attack while the rest of the bill goes largely ignored. If this is true, it worked like a charm, but that's an awfully cynical ploy for Biden at the start of his legislative legacy. And it's an ominous indication that a whole lot of other progressive ideas are also never going to actually be enacted, too.

Democratic centrists (like Biden and Hillary Clinton) have never really been supportive of the "Fight For $15" efforts. They would be fine with raising the minimum wage, just not quite so drastically. They'd happily settle for a smaller amount, perhaps $12 an hour. Or some sort of geographic loopholes so that more rural states and areas could pay their workers less, while the big cities and coasts would be free to pay up to $15. Such incrementalism -- scoring half a loaf -- would be considered a victory by the centrists.

Progressives, of course, are frustrated by such attitudes. The push for a $15 minimum wage has been going on for a long time now, and more and more Democrats have signed on for the full amount. Unfortunately, with only 50 votes in the Senate, all Democrats must stand united for anything to pass. And while all sorts of ideas are being batted around in progressive circles to save the minimum wage hike, all of them ultimately rely on Senate Democrats standing united.

The problem, of course, is that they aren't currently united. Two senators -- Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema -- are not on board. What this means is that no matter what scheme is attempted to keep the minimum wage hike in the pandemic bill -- a bill which will only require a simple majority to pass the Senate -- it is going to fail, when the votes are counted.

There are plenty of schemes floating around out there, to be sure. Since the Senate parliamentarian issued her advisory opinion that the minimum wage hike is not allowable under reconciliation rules, Democrats could just fire the parliamentarian and replace her with someone more amenable to the idea. Vice President Kamala Harris could act unilaterally and just overrule the parliamentarian -- a tactic that would likely succeed since appealing such a ruling would take a vote of 60 senators. Or the Senate could take the minimum wage hike up in a separate bill, after abolishing the legislative filibuster forever.

But all of these options -- all of them -- require, at some point, a vote of 51 Democrats to advance. That means having Manchin, Sinema, and Biden (or Harris, by extension) fully on board. And they're not.

Biden began by signalling that he might just play hardball on the issue. He dispatched Harris to West Virginia to do local media interviews, a move that incensed Manchin. Biden could have kept this pressure up (Harris also visited Arizona, which made less news since Sinema didn't complain about it). A progressive media ad campaign could have been launched in the two states to increase public pressure on the two holdout Democrats to get on board with $15 an hour.

Biden, however, signalled instead that he was going to just throw in the towel. Two weeks ago, he gave an interview where he said (long before the parliamentarian even ruled) that he expected the minimum wage to be stripped out of the bill. He told governors the same thing. He did not sound like it was a top priority for him, or that he would fight to keep it in any way. This is when I began wondering if it was put into the bill specifically to be conceded later to Republicans anyway. If all the GOP fire was on the minimum wage, then all the other parts of the bill would get less opposition, in other words.

Biden refuses to consider drastic changes to Senate rules, because he remembers (and reveres) a different sort of Senate -- one where Republicans would occasionally be reasonable and work things out. So he's not a fan of getting rid of the filibuster or overruling the parliamentarian (or firing her). What this means is that Harris voting for any of these schemes is already in doubt, since she'll be acting at Biden's direction.

But it likely wouldn't even have mattered, because for Harris to even cast her vote there would have to be a 50-50 tie. And the Democrats currently only have 48 votes for $15 an hour. This is why all of these wild schemes are doomed to fail, unless both Manchin and Sinema have a change of heart sometime soon. Absent that, it doesn't matter what is proposed -- eliminating the filibuster, ignoring the parliamentarian, whatever -- because none of these proposals have enough support to pass.

The White House doesn't exactly sound very confident of their future chances of passing this, either. When asked about what priority Biden put on hiking the minimum wage, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki admitted there really was no Plan B at this time: "We don't have a clear answer on what that looks like at this point. It just remains a commitment and something [President Biden] will use his political capital to get done." Pretty vague, you've got to admit. She's essentially saying: "Maybe something will somehow happen in the future, and if it ever does, Biden will halfheartedly support the effort, just like he halfheartedly supported it this time."

This is all disappointing but entirely expected. Biden has always been a centrist. All that talk from him on the campaign trail about passing big, bold fundamental changes was likely just that -- talk. What Democrat doesn't want to picture himself as F.D.R.? But when it comes down to it, Biden refuses to play hardball to make bold changes happen. And with two Democrats refusing to support the idea anyway, the prospects of a minimum wage increase at this point look pretty dim indeed. Democrats could attach it to another reconciliation bill, but that would run into the same exact problem with the parliamentarian. Or they could try it as a standalone bill, but they are never going to get the required 10 Republicans to vote for it. With several Democrats (including Biden) refusing to support abolishing the filibuster, those are really the only possible future outcomes.

Biden is happy to use "Fight For $15" as a slogan when campaigning, but that's all he sees it as -- a convenient thing for Democrats to promise, while never actually following through on the idea. This may bode very ill for not just the minimum wage but also for all the other bold things progressives would like to see passed now that we have a Democratic House and Senate. Biden could bring the weight of the White House to bear to try to convince recalcitrant Democrats to support his agenda -- which may or may not work -- but if Biden himself isn't willing to lead the fight, then things like a $15 an hour minimum wage are just never going to actually happen. And, according to the White House, while "it just remains a commitment" the reality is "we don't have a clear answer on what that looks like." In other words, don't hold your breath for it to happen any time soon.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

33 Comments on “Minimum Wage Hike Now Doubtful”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I can't believe the minimum wage is less than eight dollars an hour. That's just ridiculous at this point in time.

    I guess the Republican cult of economic failure is alive and well with still no sign of Democrats finally putting a stake through the heart of it.

    Sigh.

    In Ontario I believe the minimum wage is now $14.75. It was scheduled to be over $15 by now but the Conservatives leading the province now stopped it as soon as they got into office.

    Why isn't this a state issue?

  2. [2] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    You sound depressed.

    I would like to see a 'reconciliation' between two arguments here. One is the argument (today) that Biden and Democrats' failure to push the $15 minimum wage through this week implies their abandonment of the entire progressive agenda, more or less. The other is the argument (past week or so) that if the Dems don't do what it takes to pass some substantially progressive legislation this year they will tank the 2022 election.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The prospects of Democrats scoring a big victory on hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour are getting dimmer and dimmer. Sadly, this is true not just in the current pandemic relief bill, but overall -- because if it isn't included now it's hard to see how it is ever going to pass otherwise.

    Right. Because it certainly doesn't make any sense to raise it and surely the people are massively opposed to it, too.

    Are you freakin' kidding me!!!???

    I mean, seriously!?

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    What jobs in the US are paying the national minimum wage?

    Do Democrats just need to narrow the focus?

  5. [5] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    This is exactly why Bernie and Elizabeth Warren were at the top of my list back in the primaries and why Joe was only narrowly ahead of the clearly unqualified like Marianne Williamson (whom I personally adore.)

  6. [6] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    FPC

    [121]

    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    One Sunday Night we'll have to focus on the sounds of Texas ...

    I second that! Let's do a Texas themed Sunday Night Dance Party.

  7. [7] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    A step in the right direction.

    This is why I said recently that we need to start preparing NOW to provide another alternative to vote for in 2022 after the Deathocrats let us down again so that the only alternative in 2022 will not be Republikillers.

    Let's get One Demand started so that will can have politicians that will actually be taking action instead of making empty promises while campaigning that leave us disappointed even though it is "entirely expected".

    Think about that for a minute.

    You just admitted that you expected Biden to disappoint you. Why are people voting for someone based on campaign promises that they KNOW are empty promises?

    We can do better.

    Wake up. Wise up. Rise up.
    (I'm leaving out the rest for now as this article was a step in the right direction on reality and credibility.)

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    By the way, Progressives are most decidedly NOT the end all and be all of good policy.

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    MtnCaddy,

    Let's do a Texas themed Sunday Night Dance Party.

    Good idea! Let's do it this Sunday night, then ...

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Is Kick the only Texan here?

  11. [11] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    [10]


    Bleyd
    is also from Texas and resides in TX-23 as does Kick.

  12. [12] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    No minimum wage boost, no big "helicopter money" stimulus checks, but perhaps a mite of "Buyer's Remorse"?

  13. [13] 
    John M wrote:

    [1] Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    "Why isn't this a state issue?"

    It is. States can also raise the minimum wage individually and independently of the federal government.

    Here in Florida we passed a state constitutional amendment that will increase the minimum wage by one dollar an hour every September 30 every year beginning this year in 2021, and continuing until it reaches 15 dollars in 2026. After 2026 future increases will be automatic based on inflation.

  14. [14] 
    John M wrote:

    [2] John M from Ct. wrote:

    "You sound depressed."

    Another way to raise the minimum wage is to do it just like it has been done EVERY single time in the past. This also goes for other pieces of the progressive agenda. Simply attach it to a MUST past piece of legislation that forces enough Republicans to hold their nose and vote for the overall package. Examples include: Defense spending appropriations bill, or a bill raising the debt limit ceiling, or a huge infrastructure bill that brings a lot of spending to their district or state ETC. I know of at least two important highway bridge projects that are currently stalled in West Virginia for lack of funding.

    That is assuming Democrats like Manchin don't just get tired enough, or pressured by colleagues enough, over Republican obstruction, to do away with the filibuster. Elizabeth Warren was already loudly calling for doing away with the filibuster on the Rachel Maddow show last night, and she's no the only Democratic Senator to say so out loud on the record.

  15. [15] 
    John M wrote:

    I think Elizabeth will agree with me and let's just give Joe Biden a break. Get the covid relief bill passed first before the March 14th deadline, and let's see what happens to the other legislative priorities later in the Spring, Summer and Fall, starting in April and beyond. Biden has at least through September or October and the start of the new fiscal year and the time when House members start their re-election campaigns focusing on their own primaries first for 2022.

  16. [16] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    perhaps joe would have a better idea of what it looked like if we used pie. the minimum hourly wage should be the money required to buy a full-sized pie. perhaps if the pie-wage index were used, the wage hike wouldn't seem so politically challenging.

    if you can't afford to buy, vote for pie!

  17. [17] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    I don't know why anyone is shocked at this. The progressives were quite middling in the 2020 election. They gained in cities but lost out in rural districts. All those republicans who voted Biden did not vote democrat down ticket. Republicans gained house seats and though democrats got control of the senate, 50 +1 is not any sort of majority accept for controlling the agenda (which is important, as McConnell has proven). I think looking at how well the anti socialist rhetoric worked for republicans, if Bernie had won the primaries, the election would have been much closer and Trump might have won.

    Biden seems to want to get as much done as possible especially returning the country to normal from the pandemic. I personally think this is a good strategy. Show competence, get stuff done, don't freak out the moderates. 2022 has 22 republican senate seats up for reelection and only 11 democrats. That is a recipe to pick up seats but only if things return to normal and the republicans don't get some issue to rally around. We narrowly won a battle but not the war. It's not time to get drunk with power, it's time to plan for further gains..

  18. [18] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Chris, I'll agree that $15 ain't going to happen in this Covid bill. But I'm not nearly as pessimistic about it's chances as you are.

    Yes, Joe is a bleeping Centrist and old-school in his overly high opinion of the Senate. Yes, bleeping Manchin and Sinema are likewise against dumping the filibuster. None of this is surprising.

    But the political popularity of $15 remains and on this matter
    I don't see failure being an option for the Dems .

    Manchin (D-WV) has suggested a compromise at $11. Support for $15 in West Virginia polls at 63%. The minimum wage in West Virginia is $8.75 and $12.15 in Arizona, and here's a chart
    for all 50 states. I couldn't find any polling in Arizona but I did learn that Sinema got elected in Arizona even though she's bisexual! So there's hope for Arizona (which, lest we forget, also went for Biden.)

    There are also cracks in GOP resistance: Repugs Romney and Cotton have offered $10, and some Repugs might go higher, per this article from
    The Atlantic.

    Oh, and I don't doubt that including $15 in Covid Relief was designed to (1) focus Repug attention on it (as you observed) and (2) set up the Repugs as the obstructionist bad guys for when the stand alone vote comes.

    I'm sure I'm as Progressive as anyone else here in Weigantia, and I haven't lost hope in Joe to the degree that you seem to have.

  19. [19] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    [12]

    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    No minimum wage boost, no big "helicopter money" stimulus checks, but perhaps a mite of "Buyer's Remorse"?

    You mean, like any of the 80 million Biden voters would have voted for Trump because the Dems have yet to pass the legislation you reference? Really?

    The only buyer's remorse in evidence are the former Repugs voters who've bailed on the Trump Party in general and especially after January 6th.

  20. [20] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    [12]

    BTW C.R.S. did you vote to reelect Trump last November? If so, why?

  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I do agree with John and Bashi and MtnCaddy on the overall.

  22. [22] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Of course, I always agree with Joshua and his tasty pie analogies. :)

  23. [23] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Caddy (2o)

    Where were you when I posted (well ahead of normal election day) that I had already voted for the Dem pres candidate for the first time in my life. (Actually, I think I said more like I had voted AGAINST Trump, rather than for Biden.) Check with Kick, I'm sure she'll confirm that.

  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    CRS,

    How would you say your pick for pres is doing, so far?

  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    One has to be forgiven for wondering if this was really President Joe Biden's plan all along; that including it in this bill was nothing short of a feint, to provide a lightning rod for Republicans to attack while the rest of the bill goes largely ignored. If this is true, it worked like a charm, but that's an awfully cynical ploy for Biden at the start of his legislative legacy.

    If that's true, and it's a pretty big 'IF', then, yes ... it did work like a charm - to pass the critical COVID relief bill!!!

    The federal minimum wage bill can come later or next, even as he has a lot of bipartisan support for it. Biden is not nearly as cynical as he is being made out to be, here. First things, first and all that.

  26. [26] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @caddy,
    That's like the third or fourth time since election day you've asked stucki that question. Keep it up and we'll have to start calling you CRS ;)

  27. [27] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Indeed.

  28. [28] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    That was a pretty awesome speech the president made today.

  29. [29] 
    Kick wrote:

    Don Harris
    7

    This is why I said recently that we need to start preparing NOW to provide another alternative to vote for in 2022 after the Deathocrats let us down again so that the only alternative in 2022 will not be Republikillers.

    As if there aren't already multiple alternative choices on ballots across America that are neither Democrats nor Republicans. Another lie from Don Harris who argues out of both sides of his ass on this particular issue.

    Let's get One Demand started so that will can have politicians that will actually be taking action instead of making empty promises while campaigning that leave us disappointed even though it is "entirely expected".

    Let's at least admit your shit has been started for multiple years and failing the same amount of time.

    Think about that for a minute.

    You should never ask anyone else to do something that you either cannot or will not do yourself; think about that.

    You just admitted that you expected Biden to disappoint you. Why are people voting for someone based on campaign promises that they KNOW are empty promises?

    CW disappoints you on a near-daily basis. Why are you still here with your bullshit routine?

    We can do better.

    Apparently you can't. You've been told to get your own blog, and yet here you remain whining about the same shit over and over and getting nowhere.

  30. [30] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller
    10

    Is Kick the only Texan here?

    Bleyd and Steedo too.

  31. [31] 
    Kick wrote:

    MtnCaddy
    11

    Bleyd is also from Texas and resides in TX-23 as does Kick.

    I'm pretty sure Bleyd is from Harris County, and poor Steedo has Louie Gohmert as his representative... so none of us lives in TX-23, which covers a huge chunk of Texas on the Mexican border. :)

  32. [32] 
    Kick wrote:

    John M
    14

    Exactly! :)

  33. [33] 
    Kick wrote:

    C. R. Stucki
    23

    Where were you when I posted (well ahead of normal election day) that I had already voted for the Dem pres candidate for the first time in my life. (Actually, I think I said more like I had voted AGAINST Trump, rather than for Biden.) Check with Kick, I'm sure she'll confirm that.

    Stucki is making me agree with him, but he did say it:

    http://www.chrisweigant.com/2020/10/15/are-republicans-getting-worried/#comment-170255

    I said he deserved a little ass for doing it and then drew him one.
    Good times. :)

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