Minimum wage deal emerging?

Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSenate GOP breaks record on confirming Trump picks for key court Don’t worry (too much) about Kavanaugh changing the Supreme Court Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (D-Nev.) is struggling to stop Senate Democrats from backing a plan to undercut President Obama’s $10.10 minimum wage target.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington Overnight Health Care: Novartis pulls back on drug price hikes | House Dems launch Medicare for All caucus | Trump officials pushing ahead on Medicaid work requirements Senate panel to vote next week on banning 'gag clauses' in pharmacy contracts MORE (R-Maine) has been reaching out to Democrats to agree on a compromise that is threatening to divide the president’s party on this core component of its election-year message.

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Democrats already disagree among themselves over whether they should continue to stick to the $10.10 amount or try to work with Republicans on a lower figure.

A senior Democratic leadership aide said Reid is a “hardcore” supporter of Obama’s target number, to be achieved over three years, a proposal strongly supported by labor unions, which are powerful in the majority leader’s state.

But several Democratic senators have signaled they are willing to negotiate a lower wage floor that would be easier to get enough Senate votes to pass.

Now, despite his staunch personal preference for $10.10, Reid’s office doesn’t rule out compromise depending on feeling within his caucus.

“Sen. Collins is talking with colleagues on both sides of the aisle about a possible alternative that could raise the wage by a reasonable amount and avoid the loss of the 500,000 jobs that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates could result from raising the minimum wage too quickly and by too large an amount,” said Kevin Kelley, a spokesman for Collins.

Kelley said the package could include tax incentives to encourage small businesses to hire workers. Collins, a centrist, is up for reelection this year.

Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingBipartisan bill would bring needed funds to deteriorating National Park Service infrastructure Lawmakers say Trump tariffs are threatening local newspapers Senate adds members to pro-NATO group MORE (Maine), an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said he would vote for the measure to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour but declared he would not be satisfied with a vote merely for show; he wants legislation that could pass.

“My only real concern is that we come out of here with something,” he said.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate panel advances Trump IRS nominee Bipartisan bill would bring needed funds to deteriorating National Park Service infrastructure Senate Dems press for info on any deals from Trump-Putin meeting MORE (D-Va.), a GOP target this year, also indicated a willingness to do a deal.

Even if senators agree and pass a bipartisan package, the GOP-led House is unlikely to follow suit. With Republicans well placed to win the Senate, some Democrats see a wage hike vote as a useful weapon on the campaign trail. A compromise deal could let GOP senators and candidates off the hook. But a deal could also shield centrist Democrats from GOP and industry attacks.

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: Fewer than half of school districts test for lead | Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act | FEMA avoids climate change when discussing plan for future storms Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act Full interview: Democratic candidate Kerri Evelyn Harris discusses her Senate campaign in Delaware MORE (D-Del.) worries that, if Senate Democrats refuse to compromise at below $10.10, no bill will get through.

“The president had, I thought, a very good proposal last year, $9 and indexed [to inflation],” he said.

The minimum wage is now $7.25 an hour and is not indexed to inflation. Liberal Democrats, most notably Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinDem Senator open to bid from the left in 2020 Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Trump should require federal contractors to follow the law MORE (Iowa), persuaded the White House to embrace $10.10, after Obama initially proposed lifting the rate to $9 an hour.

Labor unions have panned a possible compromise.

“There’s no justification for it, other than to appease senators who don’t necessarily support the minimum wage,” said a senior labor official. “Looking to shave off part of it for political expediency doesn’t make any sense for people who work 40 hours a week and will continue to be in poverty if you lower it below $10.10.”

The CBO estimated raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour would likely cost 100,000 jobs, significantly below the 500,000 jobs it warned might be lost by raising it to $10.10.

Collins is stressing that point.

“The bottom line is — Sen. Collins is looking for a common-sense solution that would help struggling families and not force employers to eliminate jobs, rather than add them,” said Kelley, Collins’s spokesman.

The majority of the Democratic caucus favors $10.10, but no Senate Republican has publicly endorsed it. Of the 55 senators who caucus with the Democrats, 37 have co-sponsored Harkin’s wage bill. Democrats who have not signed on include Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas MORE (W.Va.), Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuFormer New Orleans mayor: It's not my 'intention' to run for president Dems grasp for way to stop Trump's Supreme Court pick Landrieu dynasty faces a pause in Louisiana MORE (La.), John Walsh (Mont.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenErnst: Intelligence agencies should question Trump’s interpreter, not Congress Overnight Defense: More Trump drama over Russia | Appeals court rules against Trump on transgender ban | Boeing wins Air Force One contract | Military parade to reportedly cost M Top Dem lawmaker pushing committee for closed-door debrief with Trump’s interpreter MORE (N.H.) and Mark UdallMark Emery UdallRecord number of LGBT candidates running for governor Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Democratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat MORE (Colo.).

Sen. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (Ark.), the chamber’s most vulnerable incumbent, is the only Democrat who has said he flat out opposes a raise to $10.10. He instead supports a local initiative to raise Arkansas’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour over the next three years.

“This hasn’t been an issue in our race because it’s one of the rare issues where Sen. Pryor and Tom agree,” said David Ray, a spokesman for Rep. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonBipartisan group introduces retirement savings legislation in Senate Overnight Defense: Fallout from tense NATO summit | Senators push to block ZTE deal in defense bill | Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to run Afghan war Hillicon Valley: DOJ appeals AT&T-Time Warner ruling | FBI agent testifies in heated hearing | Uproar after FCC changes rules on consumer complaints | Broadcom makes bid for another US company | Facebook under fire over conspiracy sites MORE (R-Ark.), who is challenging Pryor. “A $10.10 minimum wage imposed by Washington is bad for Arkansas workers and businesses. It would hurt the very people we’re trying to help.”

Democratic senators, liberal groups and labor unions lobbying for the minimum wage hike say the vote on proceeding to the measure is likely to be delayed until next week. Reid’s office says that would be the result of Republicans slowing down the unemployment benefits bill, not because of internal Democratic dissent.

Democratic leadership aides, however, say there is little chance of reaching a compromise to raise the minimum wage to something between $7.25 and $10.10, unless Collins shows she could bring along other Republicans.

Democratic aides say Collins would have far less leverage to negotiate a minimum wage deal if Republicans block the vote on proceeding to legislation raising it to $10.10.

“Reid’s not going to have any trouble holding the line if it’s just a failed cloture vote and we move on,” said the senior Democratic leadership aide.

Her most likely allies are Republican senators who helped to negotiate a bipartisan deal to extend unemployment benefits, including Sens. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Jacky Rosen hits Dean Heller over health care in first negative ad GOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh MORE (Nev.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThis week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick McConnell: Senate to confirm Kavanaugh by Oct. 1 MORE (Alaska), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteNew Hampshire governor signs controversial voting bill Former Arizona senator to shepherd Supreme Court nominee through confirmation process Shut the back door to America's opioid epidemic MORE (N.H.) and Mark KirkMark Steven KirkThis week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill Trump attending Senate GOP lunch Tuesday High stakes as Trump heads to Hill MORE (Ill.).

There is no chance that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Overnight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria Senate to vote Monday on Trump's VA nominee MORE (Ky.) will agree to a compromise. He has warned that raising the minimum wage by any amount could kill jobs.

“We need to focus on jobs and will cite the CBO’s study saying raising it will cost 500,000 jobs,” said a GOP leadership aide.

While Collins is expected to cruise to victory this fall, Maine has trended more Democratic in recent years.  Collins vented her frustration with McConnell last year, after he lobbied Republican senators to kill a bipartisan deal she crafted on the transportation spending bill for fiscal 2014.

“This is so absurd,” Collins fumed in August, after GOP leaders sank the measure. She grumbled that McConnell had never worked so hard against a member of his own party.

 

This article was updated and corrected at 10:15 a.m. Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampDems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas Senate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds MORE (D-N.D.) is a co-sponsor of Harkin's legislation.