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Democrats Don’t Want to Raise the Minimum Wage

The party is making a deliberate decision not to use the power at its disposal.

democrats minimum wage
Washington Post

Ever since Democrats won full control of both Congress and the White House, one thing has been clear: the old excuses that the party would do big things if only Republicans would get out of the way would not fly.

Democrats are in charge of the House, the Senate, and the White House. To the extent that they find themselves constrained, it is because they are choosing to be constrained. The biggest forces standing in the way of major change are not Republicans. They are Democrats.

You know where this is headed: the fight for a $15 minimum wage. Well, I say “fight” facetiously, since Democrats are choosing not to fight for it at all. On Monday afternoon, the Washington Post reported that the Senate will strip the minimum wage from its COVID relief bill, ceding to the Senate parliamentarian’s rulings that the provision didn’t belong in the bill.

As you have doubtless heard, the parliamentarian’s rulings are non-binding, and Democrats could ignore this one if they chose. They could send the measure to the Senate floor, and dare the Joe Manchins of the world to tank the entire COVID bill rather than give the people of West Virginia $15 an hour. But they are choosing not to. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki repeated this on Monday, saying that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have too much “respect for the history of the Senate” to contemplate defying the parliamentarian:

Psaki added that overriding the parliamentarian requires the support of 50 senators. This is despite the fact that the Congressional Research Service itself says that it requires 41 votes, not 50.

Psaki also made it plain that Democrats have nothing even approaching a Plan B for how to get the minimum wage through:

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin had similar things to say:

Democrats are choosing, affirmatively, to follow rules they don’t need to follow rather than pass a $15 minimum wage, and they are also being very open about the fact that they have not come up with any viable alternatives to get the minimum wage through. (Scrapping the filibuster, a very obvious alternative, is clearly not on the table.)

Shrug. That appears to be that.

None of this is about the Republicans. This is about Democrats having a real opportunity—perhaps the only one they will have this decade—to get a $15 minimum wage passed, and making the decision to pass the opportunity up. The only conclusion you can reach is that these are people who don’t much care either way whether or not the minimum wage goes up. If they did, they’d have something to say beyond “I hope we think very seriously about dealing with the minimum wage in a different venue.” They’d decide that the “history of the Senate” was not as important as “the history of people making poverty wages.” They’d use the power at their disposal, instead of throwing it in the trash.