By: James Walker
Democrats Move $15 Minimum Wage Forward as Proposal Passes Committee
Democrats have pressed ahead with plans to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour with the House Education and Labor Committee advancing this move along with other stimulus measures.
Committee chairman Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) said Democrats had moved the minimum wage increase forward on Wednesday morning, after an overnight meeting—which saw Republican lawmakers contest aspects of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion relief plan.
Under the proposed legislation, the minimum wage would gradually increase to $15 an hour by 2025, according to a fact sheet released by the committee. There would also be a guarantee that tipped workers, youth workers, and disabled workers all receive the legal minimum wage.
Other measures in the committee's portion of relief plans include $130 billion in funding to help schools reopen amid the pandemic and bailout funds for higher education institutions.
After the Education and Labor Committee advanced its section of the reconciliation bill, Scott said in a statement: "Our country is at a pivotal moment in the fight against COVID-19. Today, we sent a clear message to the American people that help is on the way.
"This legislation invests in safely reopening schools, raises wages and increases safety protections for workers, expands access to affordable care, and provides support for the surge of families facing hunger and hardship during this pandemic."
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), vice-chair of the committee, celebrated the victory, tweeting: "We got $15 minimum wage and COVID relief for the American people through the House. Thinking of all the organizers who made this step toward victory possible. Now let's get this passed by the Senate."
Republicans on the committee criticized the panel's passage of the measure.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the GOP's ranking member on the committee, accused Democrats of favoring "left wing special interests" and advancing a "radical agenda."
"Republicans offered common sense amendments to help all schools safely reopen, help small businesses stay afloat, and help workers reenter the workforce, all of which were voted down by Committee Democrats," the congresswoman said in a statement.
In a press release, the Republican caucus on the committee also claimed the Democratic plans to boost the minimum wage would "kill" more than 1 million jobs and "decimate" small business owners unable to shoulder the increased cost of labor.
Newsweek has contacted House Education and Labor Democrats for further comment. This article will be updated with any response.
The move to increase the minimum wage comes as progressive Democrats mounted pressure on Biden to fight for the measure after he indicated that he did not believe it would survive the budget reconciliation process.
"I put it in, but I don't think it's going to survive," he told CBS News last week. "My guess is it will not be in [the stimulus bill]."
Speaking to Newsweek earlier this week, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) said it was "imperative" for the minimum wage to be upped to $15 an hour, noting that the "overwhelming majority" of Americans backed the proposal.
"Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 would give 32 million American workers a raise," Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) tweeted on Sunday. "People keep asking how can we afford to do it—my question is, how can we not?"
Congressional committees are putting together the details of further relief action after a budget resolution was passed last week.
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