Biden says $15 minimum wage won’t survive Covid relief talks

President Joe Biden speaks delivers a foreign policy address during a visit to the State Department in Washington, February 4, 2021.

Tom Brenner | Reuters

President Joe Biden said it is unlikely a $15 federal minimum wage provision makes it into the next Covid-19 relief package, hitting pause on a key campaign promise as Democrats in Congress press ahead to pass $1.9 trillion in stimulus without Republican support.

Biden said he would push for a stand-alone bill to raise the minimum wage.

“I put it in but I don’t think its going to survive,” Biden told CBS’ Norah O’Donnell in an interview scheduled to air in full on Sunday. “My guess is it will not be in [the stimulus bill].”

Democrats in Congress have moved to pass the $1.9 trillion stimulus package without Republican support in the Senate using a parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday that the lower chamber aims to pass the fiscal relief package within two weeks.

Under the rules of reconciliation, only measures that have an impact on the budget can be passed. Biden indicated in the interview that those rules likely wouldn’t allow the inclusion of a minimum wage provision in the final bill.

However, Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the budget committee, said he is still working to include the minimum wage hike in the stimulus package. Sanders, I-Vt., said a wage hike would have budget implications.

“We have a room full of lawyers working as hard as we can to make the case to the parliamentarian that in fact raising the minimum wage will have significant budget implications and in fact should be consistent with reconciliation rules,” Sanders told CNN on Sunday.  

Republicans oppose including a wage hike in the Covid-19 relief package warning it could put added strain on businesses already grappling with the economic fallout of the pandemic. And West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin also opposes the pay increase, meaning Democrats wouldn’t have the votes to pass it even with a simple majority under reconciliation.

While Biden said the $15 per hour wage provision would be unlikely to make it in the Covid relief bill, he promised to prioritize passing the wage hike in separate legislation.

“I’m prepared as the president of the United States on a separate negotiation on minimum wage to work my way up from what it is now,” Biden said. “No one should work 40 hours a week and live below the poverty wage and you’re making less than $15 an hour, you’re living below the poverty wage.”

Within the Covid stimulus package, Democrats plan to pass provisions like $1,400 direct payments, a $400 per week jobless benefit through September, $350 billion in state, local and tribal government relief, a $20 billion national Covid vaccination program, and $50 billion for virus testing.

The bill is also likely to include $170 billion for K-12 schools and higher educations institutions and $30 billion for rent and utility assistance.

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