Biden expects minimum wage increase will be dropped from final relief bill

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President Biden, in an interview broadcast Friday night, said he does not expect his economic relief package to include an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15, but vowed to push for it as a separate piece of legislation.

Some Democrats have pushed to include the federal minimum wage increase in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill. While Biden has backed that effort, the measure would need support from all 50 Democrats in the Senate to pass, and it does not appear to have the votes, raising the likelihood it will be dropped from the final version.

“I put it in, but I don’t think it’s going to survive,” Biden told CBS News, citing Senate rules on reconciliation.

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

Biden said he supports raising the minimum wage gradually until it reaches $15 per hour, citing studies that show it would benefit the entire economy.

“My guess is it will not be in it. But I do think that we should have a minimum wage, stand by itself, $15 an hour,” Biden said.

A separate stand-alone bill from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 has the support of 37 additional senators. The increase is a major priority among progressives.

The Senate early Friday passed a budget resolution that paves the way for the chamber to pass the larger economic relief bill without GOP support. But the package will require the support of all 50 Democratic and independent senators, and the federal minimum wage increase does not appear to have the votes needed to make it law, raising the likelihood it will be dropped from the final version. 

Several Democratic senators have declined to say if they specifically support increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a crucial vote, has explicitly said he opposes it. 

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, which was approved in 2007 and set in place two years later. Supporters of raising the wage argue the current level is not enough to make ends meet and that an increase is long overdue to buoy workers and the economy as a whole.

A Congressional Budget Office analysis on raising the minimum wage also found that it would dramatically decrease poverty, with a $15 minimum lifting 1.3 million people above the poverty line. 

Opponents argue a minimum wage increase could have unintended negative consequences, including burdening small businesses, reducing employment and pushing companies toward automation. 

Tags $15 minimum wage Bernie Sanders coronavirus relief Joe Manchin Minimum wage

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