To Secure the $15 Minimum Wage in the Covid Relief Bill, Progressives Need to Flex Their Power.

Progressives in Congress have leverage, and they need to use it.

Lauren Elizabeth
Mar 4 · 4 min read
Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Following the 2020 election, Democrats were able to secure the White House, the Senate, and continue their majority in the House of Representatives in what was described as a referendum on Donald Trump, the Republican party, and their handling of the coronavirus pandemic that continues to rip through the country. The nation gave the Democratic party unilateral control, but one couldn’t help noticing that their majority in the House had shrunk. While that could certainly serve as a troubling sign that Republicans stand to take back the House as soon as 2022, it’s also worth noting that with the slimmer majority, the progressive wing of the party has a considerable amount of leverage that they might not otherwise have.

With leverage comes power, and in order to secure the $15 minimum wage in the covid relief bill, we should expect progressive lawmakers to use that power.

After the unelected Senate parliamentarian gave the advisory opinion that raising the minimum wage to $15 could not be passed under reconciliation with the covid relief bill, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris predictably waved the white flag, and expressed their “disappointment”. Of course, they conveniently leave out the fact that the Senate “tradition” has deemed it perfectly acceptable for the Vice President to overrule the Senate parliamentarian. One would probably be right to assume that their objections to doing so lie not only with the corporate business community’s opposition to raising the wage, but the opposition of their fellow Democratic lawmakers like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema as well.

In vowing that he would not vote for the Covid relief package if a $15 minimum wage was included, Manchin has flexed the very same political power granted to him by a slim Democratic majority that — once the bill returns to the House to be voted on — the progressive wing of the Democratic party could flex as well.

There is absolutely nothing stopping lawmakers like Ro Khanna, Pramila Jayapal, AOC, Tlaib, and Omar from saying that “if this bill comes back from the Senate without a fifteen dollar minimum wage, then we will not vote to pass it”.

The thing is, (as I’m sure many of us have come to notice) there are a number of Democratic lawmakers, such as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who like to pay lip service to implementing a $15 minimum wage in order to get elected, but have absolutely no intention of fighting for it. That said, they certainly don’t want to be the ones to kill that sort of legislation, either. They are depending on the progressive caucus in congress to do their dirty work for them, and vote for the bill without the $15 minimum wage so that the pressure is off of them. Meanwhile, Joe Manchin is banking on the very same thing so that he does not have to be known as the lawmaker who killed the covid-19 relief bill because he didn’t want the lowest income Americans to get a raise.

The covid-19 relief package is a must pass piece of legislation. If enough members of the progressive caucus hold firm and vow not to vote for it if it doesn’t include the $15 minimum wage, then the pressure is once again on Kamala Harris to overrule the will of the parliamentarian. As much as she would rather keep her donors happy and avoid passing the $15 minimum wage, if progressives hold firm and inflict as much political pressure on her as possible to get this must pass legislation through, my guess is she would overrule the parliamentarian for no other reason than protecting her 2024 Presidential ambitions. If progressives were to succeed in pressuring Kamala Harris, the ball is once again in Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema’s court.

They are not going to kill the coronavirus relief package.

All Manchin and Sinema are waiting for is for someone to call their bluff. They are banking on the progressive caucus being talked into giving in, and it has never been more critical for them to say no.

If progressives don’t take this opportunity to stand firm, then not only is the $15 minimum wage gone, so is every single policy goal they might want. There is no more pressure for them to inflict if they’ve sent the loud and clear message that they are willing to back down when they don’t even have to. Once that message is sent, they’re also going to be taking the blame as well. On debate stages, it’s all but guaranteed that when questioned about why the $15 minimum wage didn’t come to fruition, corporate Democratic lawmakers like Manchin and Sinema will eagerly point out that progressives voted on the legislation without it included as well.

It’s a trap that progressives can not afford to fall for.

Recently, Representative Jayapal said that they were leaving the option “open” when asked if her caucus would withhold their votes on the bill without the wage increase. Not good enough. The answer needs to be a clearcut no. They’re not going to get a seat at the negotiating table if they don’t use the same tactics being used against them, and if they continue to play these games and fall for the same tricks, then what is the point? Lawmakers like AOC and the rest of the “squad” were elected to fight, and in this instance there are absolutely no excuses not to.

Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worthy of discourse.

Lauren Elizabeth

Written by

Lauren is a writer & leftist with analysis on topics related to politics & policy. She can be reached at LaurenMartinchek@gmail.com or Twitter @xlauren_mx

Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worthy of discourse. Fundamentally informative and intelligently analytical.

Lauren Elizabeth

Written by

Lauren is a writer & leftist with analysis on topics related to politics & policy. She can be reached at LaurenMartinchek@gmail.com or Twitter @xlauren_mx

Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worthy of discourse. Fundamentally informative and intelligently analytical.

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