Stefani Reynolds/Getty

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

The federal minimum wage could soon change. On the campaign trail, President Joe Biden said one of his main priorities was to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. And as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has attempted to include that raise in the work-in-progress $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package proposed by Democrats. But there’s a hitch.

As my colleague Andrea Guzman wrote yesterday, “It’s unclear if the rules of reconciliation—the maneuver Senate Democrats plan to use to pass the bill—will allow the provision to stand.” There is an inclination it might. A Monday letter from the Congressional Budget Office looks promising. So (putting aside the potential problems of moderate Democrats unwilling to vote for it) the decision comes down to a ruling from the parliamentarian of the United States Senate.

According to a senior Democratic aide, that’s on the horizon. The aide told me that Democratic leadership would start meeting with the parliamentarian this week, with a determination coming next week at the earliest. (Vice President Kamala Harris, as president of the Senate, could overrule the parliamentarian, but the White House has been unwilling to entertain that possibility.)

In the meantime, Republican senators are trying to pretend they’re interested in raising the wage. Rather than just flip across the aisle and help, Republican Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) announced a new minimum wage proposal of their own—one that deliberately excludes undocumented immigrants. The senators haven’t specified by how much their bill would raise the minimum wage, nor do they acknowledge that undocumented immigrants can’t legally work in the United States, making them more susceptible to underpayment and bringing authorized workers’ wages down with them.

Instead, the Republicans’ bill—like the New Deal legislation that created the minimum wage in 1938—would be premised on exclusion. This tends to harm workers rather than lift them up. Thanks to compromises with conservative Southern Democrats, the Fair Labor Standards Act establishing the minimum wage excluded domestic workers and agricultural workers—two sectors currently heavily staffed by undocumented workers. Not to mention that tipped workers continue to earn hour wages as low as $2.13 thanks to policies rooted in racism.

The aide called Romney and Cotton’s proposal a “distraction.”

No matter what happens with reconciliation, one thing’s for sure: As long as workers are paid poverty wages, they’ll keep on striking, from Chicago to Los Angeles.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate