Some liberal Democrats complained that the Senate parliamentarian ruled that a $15 minimum wage couldn’t be approved through budget reconciliation and its lower 51-vote threshold. It turns out they didn’t even have the votes for that, with eight Senate Democrats recognizing that it’s a bad idea.
Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the two usual swing votes on the Democratic side, voted against an amendment to bypass the parliamentarian’s ruling. But they were joined by both senators from Delaware, Chris Coons and Tom Carper, and both senators from New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen. Red-state Sen. Jon Tester of Montana also voted against the amendment, as did Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, who caucuses with Democrats.
In the aftermath of a pandemic, businesses that managed to stay afloat would be hit once again by a nationwide minimum wage hike. Twenty-one states would have had their minimum wages more than doubled, including Hassan and Shaheen’s state of New Hampshire, while others would still see steep hikes. The minimum wage increase would lead to a maximum wage of $0 for the 1.4 million to 2.7 million who would be thrown into unemployment, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis.
It would be counterintuitive approaching the end of the pandemic to throw away millions out of jobs, burden small businesses at the behest of major corporations, and make it more difficult for young and low-skilled workers to find employment. At least eight Democrats recognized this.
It’s a reality check for progressives such as Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, who wanted the parliamentarian replaced and the filibuster abolished in response to the parliamentarian’s ruling. It isn’t just procedural hurdles blocking progressives from forcing through terrible policies by simple majorities. Some Democrats just aren’t quite on board with uniform national policies.
The minimum wage should be dealt with at the state, or even local, level. A population of some 330 million people spread out across 50 states should not be governed on high by a slim majority in Washington D.C. That Democrats couldn’t even convince their own members to follow through on this should tell them that a steep, uniform minimum wage hike is still a terrible idea.