The Business Roundtable urged Congress to exclude a federal minimum wage hike from the COVID-19 relief package, arguing any increase should be designed to reflect regional differences in pay.
The trade group, which represents corporate CEOs, did say the relief measure should be passed without the wage hike as quickly as possible.
“Business Roundtable continues to support an increase in the federal minimum wage. However, we believe that the increase should be thoughtfully designed to reflect regional differences in wage rates and not undermine small business recovery,” Business Roundtable CEO Joshua Bolten wrote in a letter late Tuesday.
“In the context of a major recession involving millions of small business job losses, this will require an appropriate phase-in and, potentially, triggers tied to the end of the pandemic,” he added.
The House on Friday is expected to vote on a package that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025.
The language faces an uncertain future in the Senate, however, due to procedural rules and opposition from Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinPelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill topline higher than Senate's To reduce poverty, stop burdening the poor: What Joe Manchin gets wrong about the child tax credit Overnight Health Care — Presented by Indivior —Pfizer: COVID-19 vaccine safe for young kids MORE (D-W.Va.), who has suggested raising it to $11 an hour and indexing it to inflation.
Separately, the Senate parliamentarian is expected to make a determination as early as Wednesday on whether raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour can be included in a budget reconciliation package.
The ruling is critical, as Senate Democrats are using the budgetary rules to move the COVID-19 relief legislation through the Senate to avoid a filibuster. It would take 60 votes to pass the package with the minimum wage hike if the parliamentarian rules it is ineligible for inclusion under the special budgetary rules.
Bolten said that the minimum wage issue should be debated in future legislation and not in this package.
This letter is the first time the Business Roundtable has sent Congress their recommendations on raising the minimum wage, but the trade group said earlier this month the issue would be better debated in later legislation.
Bolten stressed the need for the COVID-19 relief package to provide “targeted assistance” and “prioritize measures to strengthen the public health response and address short-term, emergency needs.”
He also said the priority should be the allocation of resources to scale up the vaccine distribution program, focusing on underserved populations and communities of color.