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Parliamentarian eclipses Sen. Manchin as biggest obstacle to minimum wage hike

Procedural ruling stalls congressional momentum to double the federal minimum wage by 2025
Published: Feb. 26, 2021 at 2:42 PM CST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Momentum stalls to raise the federal minimum wage, a day after local supporters rallied in Charleston, West Virginia.

From the neighborhood café, to the state capital, West Virginians call for a minimum wage that can pay the bills.

“I see a lot of people in my work that work two and three jobs, and still can’t make ends meet,” said Mark Elliott of Princeton, W.V., a supporter of raising the minimum wage.

At its peak value in 1968, the federal minimum wage was equivalent to $12.03 dollars an hour today. The current standard – $7.25 – hasn’t budged since 2009.

Debate over whether to double it to $15 by June, 2025 divides lawmakers, largely along party lines.

Late Thursday, the Senate’s non-partisan rules referee struck a major blow to the wage hike’s chances, disqualifying it from the latest coronavirus relief bill.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) applauded the parliamentarian’s decision. “There’s a better way to do it, and we should have a broader discussion on it than jamming it into this bill,” she said.

Capito said the push for 15 goes too far. She’s signed onto a Republican counterproposal that couples more workplace screening for undocumented immigrants with getting to $10 an hour by 2025.

“I think that makes it easier for small businesses,” she said noting that too high a minimum wage could force rural mom and pop shops to fold.

Even before the procedural setback, the vote count didn’t add up in the push for 15′s favor. Democrats needed Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va) support and he’s only willing to go up to $11.

But while President Joe Biden is ready to concede the fight for now, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is not.

“Large corporations should be paying at least $15 an hour,” he said. Sanders’ new pitch: use taxes to punish big corporations that don’t and reward small businesses that do.

That tweak may fit within the Senate’s rules, but likely still lacks the votes.

Spokespeople for Sen. Manchin were unable to find a time to schedule an interview with the senator this week. A Friday request for a statement regarding Sen. Sanders’ new proposal went unanswered.

Analysts from Congress’ own budget office found a 15-dollar minimum wage would benefit one-in-ten workers and lift nearly a million out of poverty.

But, the same analysis determined it could also cost the country up to 1.4 million jobs.

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