Just a few days ago, Democrats were preparing to leave Republicans behind on a minimum wage hike. Now the GOP might be their only shot at raising the wage this Congress.
The ruling against including a $15 minimum wage in this month’s coronavirus relief bill by the Senate parliamentarian, its official rules referee, dealt a major blow to Democrats and President Joe Biden’s agenda. But that decision was also clarifying: With Democrats holding only 50 Senate seats and divided over gutting the filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer probably needs 10 Republicans now on any successful deal to raise the minimum wage.
Democrats have batted away the GOP proposal to raise the wage to $10 an hour and enact stricter immigration vetting requirements for employers. But as Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), put it: “The nice thing about that is, it helped define the floor, from which we can only imagine a pathway up.”
“It is a more durable solution if it’s 60 votes,” Coons said on Monday after a couple of “very preliminary” weekend discussions with Republicans on raising the wage.
Republicans “realize it’s got to be raised,” said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine). “There are three principle pieces: The number, the phase-in and the tipped wage. Those are the three things we should work on. We ought to try and have some discussions. That’s the way you’re supposed to legislate.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) proposal would raise the wage to $15 in steps by 2025. It does not have unanimous support among Senate Democrats, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has suggested a compromise number of $11. But Sanders is insisting that Democrats try to eliminate the filibuster to pass the minimum wage hike and ruled out going lower than $15 hourly, which he said "is a compromise already."
Several Republicans said Monday they’d be open to going higher than the $10-an-hour GOP bill helmed by Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Tom Cotton of Arkansas. Romney said Monday he has been discussing a possible way forward with Democrats on the wage hike and suggested working with the minority was the most likely path.