Senate rejects Sanders $15 minimum wage hike

The Senate on Friday voted to reject a proposal sponsored by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy: Treasury creates hub to fight climate change through finance | Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez introduce 'Green New Deal for Public Housing' | Don't attack Zoom for its Bernie Sanders federal tax bill Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez introduce 'Green New Deal for Public Housing' MORE (I-Vt.) to raise the federal minimum wage to $15. 

Seven Democrats and one Independent who caucuses with Democrats voted against it. The vote has yet to be gaveled closed, though it appeared every senator had cast their vote by 12:15 p.m.

Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOn The Money: Treasury creates hub to fight climate change | Manchin throws support behind union-backed PRO Act | Consumer bureau rolls out rule to bolster CDC eviction ban Miners union to back Biden on green energy if it retains jobs Manchin throws support behind union-backed PRO Act MORE (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThis week: Democrats move on DC statehood Lobbying world The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's infrastructure plan triggers definition debate MORE (D-Mont.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults now eligible for COVID vaccines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults can get vaccine; decision Friday on J&J vax Biden to hold second meeting with bipartisan lawmakers on infrastructure MORE (D-N.H.), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanSchumer lays groundwork for future filibuster reform To encourage innovation, Congress should pass two bills protecting important R&D tax provision Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists MORE (D-N.H.), Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsAdvocacy groups pushing Biden to cancel student debt for disabled Senators in the dark on parliamentarian's decision Sunday shows preview: Russia, US exchange sanctions; tensions over policing rise; vaccination campaign continues MORE (D-Del.) Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperThis week: Democrats move on DC statehood OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms Mallory to lead White House environment council | US emissions dropped 1.7 percent in 2019 | Interior further delays Trump rule that would make drillers pay less to feds Key Democrat says traveler fees should fund infrastructure projects MORE (D-Del.) and Angus KingAngus KingManchin throws support behind union-backed PRO Act The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults now eligible for COVID vaccines Biden to hold second meeting with bipartisan lawmakers on infrastructure MORE (I-Maine.) voted to sustain a procedural objection — a budget point of order — against the wage increase.


Coons’s vote was especially surprising as he is one of President BidenJoe BidenObama, Clinton reflect on Mondale's legacy Biden, Harris commend Mondale in paving the way for female VP Mondale in last message to staff: 'Joe in the White House certainly helps' MORE’s closest allies in the Senate, but he and Carper also represent a business-friendly state.

The Senate voted 58 to 42 against an attempt to waive a procedural objection against adding the wage provision to the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.

The overwhelming vote raises doubts whether Biden will be able to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 at any point in his first term.

Until Friday’s vote, Manchin, an emerging powerbroker in the 50-50 Senate, had been the only Senate Democrat to openly state his opposition to a nationwide $15 wage standard. Manchin instead favors setting it at $11 an hour and indexing it to inflation.

With eight members of the Democratic caucus voting against it on procedural grounds, it’s hard to see Biden getting his priority anytime soon. Instead, he is likely going to have to compromise on raising the federal minimum wage, which has not been increased since 2009, to some amount below $15

Biden reiterated his strong support for it during a conference call with Senate Democrats last week and invited them to keep working on the wage increase.


“The president wants us to move forward right now on COVID relief but he has made clear he supports an increase in the minimum wage 100 percent,” Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWorld passes 3 million coronavirus deaths Poll: 56 percent say wealth tax is part of solution to inequality Democratic senators call on Biden to support waiving vaccine patents MORE (D-Mass.), an outspoken proponent of a $15 minimum wage, told reporters after the call.

Friday’s minimum wage vote came shortly after news broke that centrists Democrats had forced their leaders to accept a significant reduction in weekly unemployment benefits.

Democrats announced Friday morning they were near a deal to set the weekly unemployment benefit at $300 a week instead of the $400 a week favored by Biden and included in the House-passed relief deal.

In a concession to liberals, the emerging unemployment benefits agreement would exempt up to $10,200 in benefits received in 2020 from taxes and extend the boost to federal unemployment benefits to Oct. 4 instead of Aug. 29, the end date set by the House.

Moderate Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate aims to pass anti-Asian hate crimes bill this week This week: Democrats move on DC statehood Trump looms over Senate's anti-Asian hate crimes battle MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump: GOP candidates need to embrace 'make America great' agenda if they want to win Republicans who backed Trump impeachment see fundraising boost Moderates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats MORE (R-Alaska) also voted for the procedural objection to Sanders’s $15 per hour minimum wage amendment.  

Every other Senate Republican voted the same way.

Some Democrats expressed uneasiness about Sanders’s proposal to raise tipped wages earned by restaurant workers at a time when many restaurants are struggling to stay open during a drop in business because of the pandemic.

The vote was largely symbolic after the Senate parliamentarian ruled last week that a provision raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 violated the Byrd Rule and could not be included in the relief package that Democrats plan to pass with a simple-majority vote under special budget rules.

Proponents of the $15 per hour wage may take some solace in the fact that Friday’s vote was on waiving a budget point-of-order objection to the amendment rather than a straight up-or-down vote on the amendment itself — leaving Democrats who voted no some wiggle room to vote yes in the future.

Because the parliamentarian ruled the wage increase violated the Byrd Rule, it would have stopped the entire relief package from passing with a simple-majority vote if it were successfully added.

But the procedural objection — which would have required 60 votes to waive — could have been sustained by Republican votes alone in the 50-50 Senate, indicating Democratic centrists are sending a message. 

Sanders vowed after the vote to continue pressing the issue.


“If anybody thinks that we’re giving up on this issue, they are sorely mistaken. If we have to vote on it time and time again, we will and we’re going to succeed,” he said. “The American people understand that we cannot continue to have millions of people working for starvation wages.”

Asked if he was surprised by the number of Democrats who voted against his amendment, Sanders said: “No, we knew exactly what was happening.”

Justice Democrats, a progressive advocacy group, on Friday blasted centrist Democrats over the vote.

“it is unconscionable that Sens. Tester, Manchin, Shaheen, Hassan, King, Sinema, Carper and Coons would tell millions of essential workers earning poverty wages that they are ‘heroes’ but they don’t deserve a $15 minimum wage,” said Waleed Shahid, a spokesperson for the group.

“President Biden and Vice President Harris must now present their plan for delivering on their campaign promise of a $15 minimum wage before the midterm election cycle gets underway,” he said. 

Updated at 1:31 p.m.