President Biden renewed his push for a $15-per-hour minimum wage during his joint address to Congress on Wednesday.
After calling on Congress to pass the PRO Act, a piece of pro-labor legislation, Biden added, “By the way: While you’re thinking of sending things to my desk, let’s raise the minimum wage to $15. No one working 40 hours a week should live below the poverty line.”
Since taking office, Biden has called for raising the minimum wage from its current $7.25 per hour. He originally proposed including the $15 minimum wage in the COVID-19 relief bill that passed in March, but the White House dropped it after the Senate parliamentarian ruled against it being included in a reconciliation process that allowed the bill to be passed with just 51 votes. Progressives fumed at the White House backing down on the proposal.
The bigger problem for Biden is that with Senate Republicans refusing to break ranks, he needs all 50 Democrats united on any proposal, meaning that opposition to a $15 minimum wage from any member could sink the bill. Eight members of the Democratic caucus voted against an amendment that would have included a minimum wage increase in the COVID-19 relief bill, including Delaware Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, two close Biden allies.
The fight to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour was launched nearly a decade ago, and some on the left are now saying the proposal is already outdated and the amount needs to be higher. Republicans have offered a lower amount, with GOP Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Mitt Romney of Utah proposing a plan in February that would raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour by 2025 but that gained little traction, with critics noting that it’s lower than what many states — including Arkansas — currently have in place. Romney was shown on camera Wednesday night sitting motionless as many Democrats in the chamber applauded Biden’s call for an increase.
“When members of Congress fight to set the minimum wage below a living wage, they are playing a role in creating and preserving poverty in the United States,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, tweeted in February. “The $15/hr proposal with multi-year phase in is already a deep compromise. $10 an hour is legislated poverty.”
A February Yahoo News/YouGov survey found that 52 percent were in favor of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, versus 37 percent who opposed it.
Biden also used his address to push his infrastructure plan, which the White House says would create millions of jobs, many tied to green energy and tackling climate change. Democrats have tried to defuse the traditional conservative attacks that pro-environmental policies are bad for the economy.
“There’s no reason the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing,” Biden said Wednesday.
“Nearly 90 percent of the infrastructure jobs created by the American Jobs Plan do not require a college degree,” he said. “Seventy-five percent don’t require an associate’s degree. The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America, that’s what it is.”
In addition to reiterating his support for the minimum wage increase and the PRO Act — a bill that would make union organizing easier that has already passed the House — this week Biden also announced a task force to focus on ways to help labor and appointed Vice President Kamala Harris to run it.
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