Sanders vows to take fight for $15 minimum wage to McConnell's backyard

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersHow can top Democrats run the economy with no business skill? Biden rallies with John Kerry in early primary states Buttigieg campaign says 2000 people attended Iowa rally MORE (I-Vt.) defended his plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and said he would take the issue directly to voters in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKey House and Senate health leaders reach deal to stop surprise medical bills Biden: 'No party should have too much power' Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill MORE's (R-Ky.) home state to get it passed.

“If Mitch McConnell is still in charge of the Senate, how do you get your agenda passed,” asked Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball during an interview that aired Monday.

“You do what has historically always been done when real change takes place and you do what I’ve done today, except instead coming back as president we could do it with a little more force and that is speak to the people state-by-state and have them understand what their senator is doing,” Sanders said.

“In my view vast majority of the people in this state of Kentucky want to raise that minimum wage to $15 an hour,” he added. 

Sanders, who has introduced legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, said if McConnell stays on as Senate majority leader, he would step up efforts to take the issue directly to the American people to pressure lawmakers who oppose his plan to raise the minimum wage.

“If he happens to stay on as majority leader, I will be back in Kentucky to talk about the need to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour,” Sanders said. “When you rally the American people — not just the people in Kentucky — all over this country around an agenda that works for working people, you’re going to be putting enormous pressure on those elected officials like McConnell.”

Sanders has long advocated for raising the nationwide minimum wage to $15 an hour even as his own campaign has faced questions over the hourly compensation their workers receive, after they moved to unionize. In July, the Washington Post reported that some of Sanders's campaign members weren't making the $15 an hour wage that the Vermont senator has championed across the country. Sanders later issued a statement to the Post, defending campaign salaries, saying he was "very proud” that his was the first presidential campaign to unionize workers.

The White House hopeful's comments come after making headlines over the weekend for speaking out against McConnell at a rally in Louisville, Ky. During this speech, Sanders touched on everything from climate change to gun reform, but he was particularly critical of McConnell’s role in blocking many bills in the Senate.

McConnell has previously called himself the “grim reaper” of progressive policies. In an op-ed published in June for the Courier, the Kentucky Republican vowed that as long as he is Senate leader, he won’t let Democrats’ “socialist schemes” become law.

"Let me talk about the 'grim reaper,' " Sanders told Hill.TV, referring to McConnell. "All that he is talking about is that we are seeing some decent legislation — not as strong as I would like — but some decent legislation coming from the House." 

Sanders added that Democratic proposals such raising the minimum wage would have a "profound impact" on the Bluegrass State.  

⁠—Tess Bonn