Biden Says Minimum Wage Hike Unlikely to Be in Virus Relief Bill

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President Joe Biden said he didn’t think his proposed increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour will survive congressional negotiations to pass his broader coronavirus-relief bill -- comments that could doom prospects for the measure in the final legislative package.

Biden said the increase “apparently” would not occur after the Senate on Friday passed a budget amendment offered by Senator Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, that opposed raising the wage “during a global pandemic.”

“My guess is it will not be in it,” Biden said in an interview with CBS News that was broadcast on Friday night. He called for a standalone boost to the minimum wage instead, phased in to his $15 target. “It doesn’t have to be ‘boom.’ And all the economics show, if you do that, the whole economy rises.”

Biden’s comments come despite congressional Democrats’ belief that there was still a pathway forward for the minimum wage proposal.

The Ernst amendment objected to raising the minimum wage during a pandemic, but Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent who caucuses with Democrats, said the Democrats’ proposal -- which would have increased the minimum wage gradually over five years -- would not have been subject to that limitation, since the pandemic presumably would be over by then.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also rejected the notion that the minimum wage hike would be excluded from the legislation when asked about the Senate vote following a meeting with Biden earlier Friday at the White House.

“It’s not obvious” the increase will be excluded from the final deal, Pelosi said.

A White House official said Friday night that even though the prospects for raising the minimum wage as part of the relief legislation did not look promising, the president remains committed to the idea.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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