The legislation, while supported by many Democrats, faces opposition from Republicans and would be difficult to get through the evenly split Senate. Democrats in Congress are looking to advance their longstanding goal of raising the federal minimum wage to US$ 15 an hour, introducing legislation that would do so over five years.
“In the richest country in the history of the world, if you work 40 hours a week, you should not be living in poverty,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the incoming chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said. “Minimum wage must be a living wage, enabling people to live with dignity. It is unacceptable that Congress has not passed an increase in the minimum wage since 2007 – 14 years ago.”
President Joe Biden’s US$ 1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan also contains a provision to raise the federal minimum wage from the current level of US$ 7.25 an hour to the US$ 15 minimum. The US president also signed an executive order last week telling the Department of Labor to develop recommendations on providing the US$ 15 minimum wage to federal workers.
But the legislation, while supported by many Democrats, faces opposition from Republicans and would be difficult to get through the evenly split Senate, requiring support from all 50 Democrats and 10 Republicans to overcome a filibuster.
Lawmakers from rural and Republican-leaning districts raised concerns, claiming the increase would be too much of a burden for some small businesses, especially in places where the cost of living is lower than in large urban areas. GOP leaders branded the measure a jobs killer and claimed it would be devastating to working families.
The Congressional Budget Office found in 2019 that increasing the federal minimum wage would, in 2025, boost the earnings of 17 million workers who would otherwise make less, possibly increase wages for about 10 million others, and raise about 1.3 million people above the poverty threshold. But, according to the analysis, another 1.3 million other workers would become jobless.