Politics & Policy

Kyrsten Sinema Says She Opposes $15 Minimum Wage in Coronavirus Relief Bill

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.) speaks in support of a judicial nominees during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., December 4, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Senator Kyrsten Sinema has expressed her opposition to raising the federal minimum wage to $15, dealing a blow to the Biden administration’s hopes of fulfilling a key campaign promise in the upcoming coronavirus relief package.

“What’s important is whether or not it’s directly related to short-term COVID relief. And if it’s not, then I am not going to support it in this legislation,” Sinema said in an interview with Politico.

“The minimum wage provision is not appropriate for the reconciliation process. It is not a budget item. And it shouldn’t be in there,” the Arizona Democrat added.

Democrats are hoping to push through a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package using budget reconciliation, a parliamentary procedure that allows them to approve the legislation with a simple majority of 51 votes rather than the 60 votes normally required.

The Senate is currently split evenly with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. If no Republican crosses party lines to vote for the relief bill, Democrats would need all Democrats to vote as a bloc, and Vice President Kamala Harris would cast the deciding vote in favor of the package.

Another moderate Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has also added to his party’s travails regarding the relief bill’s passage, saying he would not support including a federal $15 minimum wage either.

President Biden admitted last week that the relief bill likely would not pass with the $15 federal minimum wage provision.

“I put it in but I don’t think its going to survive,” Biden said.

The president said he would attempt to pass a $15 federal minimum wage in a stand-alone bill.

Sinema, the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in Arizona in 30 years, is also reluctant to approve legislation with a simple majority of senators through the budget reconciliation process, rather than clearing the normal legislative hurdle.

“I want to restore the 60-vote threshold for all elements of the Senate’s work,” she said.

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