Fight for $15 dies in Senate with 8 Democrats voting against

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The United States Senate on Friday rejected an attempt by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, with a number of Democrats opposing the measure.

Seven Democrats and one independent senator who caucuses with the Democrats opposed the minimum wage increase. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), and Angus King (I-Maine.) voted with Republicans on a procedural point of order that prevented Sanders’ proposal from being added to the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 spending bill.

All together, the Senate voted 58 to 42 against including a $15 minimum wage in the COVID-19 bill.

The minimum wage increase was not likely to pass the 50-50 Senate given Sen. Joe Manchin’s opposition to a $15 per hour minimum wage. He prefers instead to adopt an $11 per hour minimum wage indexed to increase with inflation.

Complicating matters for Democrats was a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian last week that including a provision to raise the minimum wage in the COVID-19 spending bill would violate the budget reconciliation rules. Democrats invoked budget reconciliation to pass the bill because Republicans do not support several provisions amounting to nearly $1 trillion of spending they say is not related to coronavirus relief.

Under budget reconciliation, Republicans will not be able to filibuster, lowering the threshold needed to pass the bill from 60 to just a simple majority. If the minimum wage increase were included with the COVID-19 relief bill, budget reconciliation would not apply and Democrats would not be able to pass it.

Although some of the seven Democrats who voted with Republicans likely support a $15 minimum wage, they were forced to vote against it today to save the larger $1.9 trillion relief bill.

Still, the vote infuriated progressives.

“There is not one state in our country where you can make ends meet on the current federal minimum wage. Not one!” Sen. Sanders tweeted. “How quickly would Congress raise the minimum wage if they were forced to live on $7.25 an hour? Outrageous.”

Sen. Sinema drew particular ire on social media for the way she voted, giving an emphatic thumbs down on the Senate floor.

In a statement she released after the vote, she clarified her support for a minimum wage increase, calling for the matter to be taken up separately from the COVID-19 bill.

“Senators in both parties have shown support for raising the federal minimum wage and the Senate should hold an open debate and amendment process on raising the minimum wage, separate from the COVID-focused reconciliation bill,” Sinema said.