Bernie Sanders is ‘confident’ that the $15 minimum wage will remain in COVID-19 relief package

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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont).

  • Sanders expressed confidence that the minimum wage hike will remain in the COVID-19 relief package.
  • The Senate parliamentarian will determine if the wage increase can be passed through reconciliation.
  • Sanders still faces resistance from Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Saturday expressed confidence that the proposed minimum wage hike to $15 per hour will remain in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that congressional Democrats are aiming to pass through the budget reconciliation process.

President Joe Biden supports the minimum wage hike but has expressed doubt that it would be permissible under reconciliation rules. But, Sanders, the independent chairman of the Senate Budget Committee who caucuses with the Democrats, thinks the measure will pass muster with the Senate parliamentarian.

“Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is not ‘incidental’ to the federal budget and is permissible under the rules of reconciliation,” Sanders said in a statement to CNN. “The CBO [Congressional Budget Office] has found that the $15 minimum wage has a much greater impact on the federal budget than opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and repealing the individual mandate penalties – two provisions that the parliamentarian advised did not violate the Byrd Rule when Republicans controlled the Senate.”

He added: “I’m confident that the parliamentarian will advise next week that we can raise the minimum wage through the reconciliation process.”

The CBO has ruled that the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 would have a substantial impact on the budget, which might meet the threshold of the Byrd Rule and be passed through the reconciliation process.

Sanders has insisted that reconciliation – which would rely on all 50 Democratic senators supporting the legislation – is the way to make the minimum wage increase happen.

“It’s gonna be in reconciliation if I have anything to say about it – it’s the only way we’re gonna get it passed,” he told Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig earlier this month.

But even if the parliamentarian rules in Sanders’ favor, he’ll still face resistance from moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Manchin told The Hill earlier this month that he could support raising the minimum wage to $11 an hour, which he said was “responsible and reasonable.”

“The minimum wage provision is not appropriate for the reconciliation process,” Sinema told Politico last week. “It is not a budget item. And it shouldn’t be in there.”

The federal minimum wage, at $7.25 per hour, has been unchanged since July 2009.

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Biden says he seriously considered Bernie Sanders for labor secretary, but couldn’t risk Senate control

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Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden talk before a Democratic presidential primary debate in February 2020.

  • President-elect Joe Biden said on Friday that he strongly considered Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont to be his labor secretary, but both men decided against the move after the dual Georgia runoff election wins gave Democrats control of the upper chamber.
  • “I did give serious consideration on nominating my friend Bernie Sanders to this position,” Biden said. “I’m confident he could have done a fantastic job. I can think of no more passionate, devoted ally to working people in this country.”
  • Biden ultimately tapped Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a close ally with strong ties to unions, to become his labor secretary.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President-elect Joe Biden said on Friday that he strongly considered Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont to be his labor secretary, but both men decided against the move after Democrats captured both US Senate seats in the Georgia runoff elections, giving the party control of the upper chamber.

Sanders, who was the last major candidate against Biden in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary campaign, was a key surrogate for the president-elect in the run up to the November election.

“I did give serious consideration on nominating my friend Bernie Sanders to this position,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware. “I’m confident he could have done a fantastic job. I can think of no more passionate, devoted ally to working people in this country.”

He added: “But after Tuesday’s results in Georgia, giving Democratic control to the United States Senate and a tie vote, Bernie and I agreed – and as a matter of fact Bernie said – we can’t put control of the Senate at risk on the outcome of a special election in Vermont.”

Sanders is slated to lead the Senate Budget Committee in the 117th Congress.

Vermont has a Republican governor, Phil Scott, who was first elected in 2016 and reelected in 2018 and 2020. If Sanders had vacated his seat, it would have triggered a special election.

Read more: President-elect Biden expressed confidence his inauguration will be safe. A few hours later, Twitter warned there’s talk of another DC Capitol attack on January 17th.

Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff defeated GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in the Georgia elections, respectively. After both men are seated, the Senate will be split 50-50, with Democrats controlling the chamber due to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote.

Biden ultimately tapped Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a close ally with strong ties to unions, to become his labor secretary.

“This is one of the most important departments to me,” Biden said on Friday. “I trust Mayor Walsh and I’m honored he accepted.”

The president-elect stated that he and Sanders would “work together, travel the country together” to meet “with working men and women who feel forgotten and left behind in this economy.” 

He added: “We agreed that we will work closely on our shared agenda of increasing worker power and to protect the dignity of work for all working people.”

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