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Empowered Bernie Sanders leads new Democrat push for $15 federal minimum wage

·3 min read

New Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and congressional Democrats are renewing their push to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.

"If we cannot get enough Republicans to vote for this legislation under regular order, we cannot simply take 'No' for an answer," Sanders said at a press conference following the introduction of the Raise the Wage Act of 2021. "We must raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour through budget reconciliation... that is exactly what I will be fighting to do."

Budget reconciliation is a process that expedites the passage of certain types of spending legislation. The newly introduced bill is co-sponsored by House Committee on Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA), Sanders, Senate HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA), Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL).

“Every worker in America should be able to make a living wage…. our current federal minimum wage is a disgrace,” Jayapal said. “How can you feed your family, or pay rent or even think about having just a bit of savings for an emergency… it is a moral imperative that we raise the federal minimum wage immediately.”

(David Foster/Yahoo Finance)
(David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

The federal minimum wage currently sits at $7.25 an hour, a number that has been in place since 2009. As of 2021, the minimum wage in a majority of U.S. states is higher than the federal minimum. More than 30 cities, along with 20 states, raised their minimum wage in the new year.

“Our country faces major economic crises, real unemployment today is at 12%, and last month alone, 140,000 workers lost their jobs,” Sanders noted. “If you work 40 hours a week, you should not be living in poverty. Minimum wage must be a living wage, enabling people to live with dignity.”

Mike Draper, owner of Des Moines-based Raygun LLC, a clothing, home goods and printing company, also expressed his support for the bill.

“This is long overdue,” Draper stated at the press conference. “I can't believe I’m still here advocating to move it up and it’s been frozen in time. This could be the most consequential and helpful economic relief that America has seen in a decade.”

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is seen on the phone before US the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th US President on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / POOL / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is seen on the phone before US the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th US President on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo: SAUL LOEB/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Sanders says Democrats have the votes

Responding to whether this legislation is likely to make it on the floor — the House voted in 2019 to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour, but was stymied by then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — Sanders responded that they “absolutely believe that we do” have the 50 votes needed to pass the minimum wage hike under budget reconciliation.

"It is my strong hope that a number of my Republican colleagues – many of whom come from terribly poor states – will understand the severity of the crisis facing their working people and join us in raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour,” Sanders added.

He also stressed how raising the minimum wage will allow many workers to stop using public assistance programs, so “it will have a very positive impact on the federal deficit,” Sanders said, noting that a recent report by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education found more than 23 million Americans would receive a “direct boost” in pay at the federal minimum wage of $15.

Aarthi Swaminathan is a senior reporter for Yahoo Finance.

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