WASHINGTON – When lawmakers unveiled President Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package on Thursday, the Senate set back a key principle of the plan: raising the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour.
By voting, the Senators supported an amendment by Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa, to “prohibit the federal minimum wage from increasing during a global pandemic.” It was a signal that the pay rise would be difficult to manage in an evenly divided Senate opposed by at least one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.
“A minimum wage of $ 15 would be devastating to our hardest-hit small businesses at a time when they can least afford it,” said Ms. Ernst in the Senate. “We shouldn’t have a single policy set by Washington politicians.”
Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont-independent Senate advocate for the $ 15 minimum wage, appeared unfazed. He said his plan was to run the wage increase over five years and never wanted to increase it during the pandemic.
“We need to end the starvation wage crisis in Iowa and the United States,” said Sanders, grazing Ms. Ernst’s home state. He added that he would try to incorporate the incremental wage increase into a budget adjustment that would allow Mr Biden’s stimulus plan to bypass the Senate’s filibuster rule by 60 votes.
“At a time when half of our workers are living from paycheck to paycheck, millions of workers are earning starvation wages, and Congress has not voted to raise the minimum wage since 2007, I will do everything I can to ensure that $ 15 Incurred – A minimum hourly wage is included in this reconciliation bill, ”said Sanders.
The vote came as Senate Democrats maneuvered through a series of politically tricky amendments that Republicans wanted to add to a virus aid package, and lawmakers pushed ahead with a budget that included Mr Biden’s proposal for US $ 1.9 trillion in economic aid. Contained dollars.
In a marathon session known as Vote-a-Rama, which had more than 800 amendments drafted and scheduled to last into the early Friday morning, the senators from both parties pushed the test votes to demonstrate their dueling priorities. In an evenly split Senate, any change required majority approval, and therefore several failed in a 50:50 tie.
Republican proposals that didn’t find enough support included measures to reduce funding for states like New York under investigation for coronavirus deaths in nursing homes. Ban funding schools that do not reopen to face-to-face lessons after teachers are vaccinated; and blocking funds from so-called protected areas that do not cooperate with federal law enforcement agencies.
Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington and Chair of the Education Committee, described the effort to limit the sending of relief supplies to schools as “just a political show.”
“If we withhold funds and schools fail to implement health security protocols, we are acting against the actual return of students to class,” Ms. Murray said.
However, Democrats rallied around some Republican amendments. The Senate unanimously approved a motion by Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, both Republicans of Florida, to block small business tax increases during the pandemic. Lawmakers also backed a move by Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, to set up a grant fund for food and drink facilities hit by the coronavirus crisis. And, by 58 votes to 42, they agreed to ban stimulus money from going to undocumented immigrants – something that is not included in Mr Biden’s economic bailout plan.
The eight Democrats who voted with Republicans on this final move included John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Gary Peters of Michigan, and Mr. Manchin.
The Senate also approved an amendment to maintain the US embassy in Jerusalem. Under President Donald J. Trump, the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, breaking decades of precedent and opening a new embassy in the city, making peace in the Middle East difficult.
Only three lawmakers objected to the change Thursday night: Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Thomas R. Carper, Democrat of Delaware.
Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, on Wednesday, ahead of Thursday’s Senate vote, dismissed the entire company as a way “to try to build each other up so we can get someone to get a bad result in a position a campaign advertisement can be converted. “
“Everyone should ignore it if they can. Do everything you can not to see how you vote, ”said Schatz. “It’s boring and the worst part of the US Senate.”
Amendments, which were passed by 99-1 vote on Thursday with bipartisan support, included a move by Mr. Manchin and Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, to prevent the direct checks included in Mr. Biden’s plan from being paid for workers become too high from USD 1,400, although it was not stated which income level was too high. Democrats have largely agreed to cap payouts for higher-income Americans.
“Do we want stimulus checks to go to households with a family income of $ 300,000?” Mrs. Collins said.
Despite the changes, the process left Mr Biden’s plan largely intact as the Democrats moved forward.
“We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and majority leader. “We can’t do too little.”
Prior to the vote, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, had suggested that the changes were intended to force Democrats to take a stand on some issues they might want to avoid.
“We’re going to put senators on record,” he said. “We’ll see our colleagues vote on these basic, sensible steps.”
The roughly 12-hour rush to vote came as spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi signaled that House Democrats were ready to remove a minimum wage of $ 15 from Mr Biden’s plan if the proposal were ruled out under the Senate’s strict rules on the budget process should be. Administrative officials and some Senate Democrats prepared for such an opportunity.
The spokesman said Democrats would not give up raising wages to $ 15 an hour if they were forced to kick it off the stimulus measure.
“It is not the last bill that we will hand over,” said Ms. Pelosi. “This is the rescue package.”
During the vote, Ms. Collins, who led a group of 10 senators who met with Mr. Biden this week, posted a letter to the White House in hopes of persuading him to take a smaller $ 618 billion stimulus package in which she argued that Mr. Biden overestimated the money needed to reopen schools and support state and local governments.
In an interview, she asked the President to use the money already approved in previous stimulus packages.
“There are hundreds of billions of dollars in unspent money,” said Ms. Collins.
The Democrats were expected to legislate and start a committee debate in the House next week to help guide the plan through the budget vote process. You could then bypass a filibuster that can only be defeated by 60 votes and instead pass it by a simple majority so that the package can be passed without Republican votes.
While the details remain fluid, those familiar with the plan said it would largely mirror Mr. Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion proposal. The most significant deviation is likely to be to reduce the cost of direct payments to Americans.
At Mr Biden’s urging, the maximum amount of these payments would remain at $ 1,400. But Democrats and the government are discussing phasing them out faster than the $ 600 payments approved by Congress in December for higher-income Americans, meaning those who earn more would get smaller checks.
Democrats could further reduce the cost of the plan by lowering the income threshold at which payments expire. Mr Biden has suggested starting the exit for individuals earning $ 75,000 a year and couples earning $ 150,000 a year. Legislators are discussing lowering these thresholds to $ 50,000 for individuals and $ 100,000 for couples, although they haven’t made a final decision as to whether to do so.
One of the Republican ideas that seemed to resonate with the White House was a proposal from Utah Senator Mitt Romney who put forward a plan to send payments of up to $ 1,250 a month to families with children to help Americans do the same encourage more children while reducing child poverty.
Mr Romney’s Family Safety Act provides for $ 350 per month for any child aged 5 and under and $ 250 per month for children ages 6 to 17 through the Social Security Agency. Payments would be capped at $ 1,250 per family per month, and they would expire for single parents earning more than $ 200,000 per year and for couples earning more than $ 400,000.
To offset the cost of the new benefit, Mr Romney proposed that other government security net expenses be eliminated, including the Temporary Aid for Families in Need program and the expanded “Head of Household” allowance for parents who fail to provide income tax returns.
Mr Biden’s American bailout plan provides for a year-long expansion of existing child tax credit and earned income tax credit, which analysts say could cut child poverty in half. Mr Romney’s plan would streamline the earned income tax credit while adding child support.
The plan was lauded as an example of the possibility of bipartisan action with White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain. write in a tweet that it was an “encouraging sign”.
Nicholas Fandos Contribution to reporting.