The progressive Independent senator from Vermont announced on Monday that he intends to force a Senate vote on an amendment to a coronavirus relief package that includes the wage hike.
“At a time when millions of workers are earning starvation wages, when the minimum wage has not been raised by Congress since 2007 and stands at a pathetic $7.25 an hour, it is time to raise the minimum wage to a living wage,” the senator said in a statement.
The White House has rejected calls to overrule the parliamentarian – an adviser on Senate rules – as Joe Biden rallies lawmakers around the passage of a $1.9 trillion relief package that is critical to his administration’s efforts to combat the pandemic.
“President Biden is disappointed in this outcome, as he proposed having the $15 minimum wage as part of the American Rescue Plan,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on 26 February. “He respects the parliamentarian’s decision and the Senate’s process.”
Senator Sanders said that he was “extremely disappointed” with the ruling, “but even more importantly, I regard it as absurd that the parliamentarian, a Senate staffer elected by no one, can prevent a wage increase for 32 million workers.”
“My own personal view is that the Senate should ignore the parliamentarian’s advice, which is wrong in a number of respects,” he said in a statement. “I am not sure, however, that my view at this point is the majority view in the Democratic Caucus.”
The House of Representatives passed on party lines on Friday night by a vote of 219-212.
A group of more than 20 House Democrats on Monday have urged their Senate counterparts and Vice President Kamala Harris – who could reject parliamentarian guidance – to ignore the ruling and include the $15 minimum wage provision in the bill.
Democrats are moving the legislation in a divided Senate through a filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process that could pass with Democratic support, as well as a tie-breaking vote from the vice president. without relying on Republican votes.
“Obviously, as soon as we can, we must end the filibuster that currently exists in the US Senate,” Mr Sanders said. “Given the enormous crises facing working families today, we cannot allow a minority of the Senate to obstruct what the vast majority of the American people want and need.”
Democrats’ proposal would gradually raise the federal minimum by $2.25 every year through 2025. Every year after that, the wage would be indexed to median wage growth.
Republican senators Tom Cotton and Mitt Romney have proposed the Higher Wages for American Workers Act, which would raise the federal hourly minimum from $7.25 to $10 over a five-year period.
The Economic Policy Institute has found that the minimum wage, if adjusted for inflation, should have exceeded $15 by 2020. It has not been raised since 2009.
Raising the federally set minimum wage to $15 an hour would lift nearly 1 million people out of poverty and raise wages for millions of Americans, according to the Congressional Budget Office.