Senior Democrats ditch their backdoor proposal for a $15 minimum wage, throwing pay hike in doubt in $1.9 trillion stimulus package

Bernie Sanders Chuck Schumer Ron Wyden
Sen Bernie Sanders speaks at a news conference alongside other top Democrats.
  • Senior Democrats tossed out a backdoor plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, per a person familiar with the decision.
  • The proposal was ditched as Democrats appeared reluctant to finalize a complex plan that could delay stimulus passage.
  • Experts said the backup plan risked being inefficient at raising hourly wages.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Senior Democrats are abandoning their backdoor $15 minimum wage proposal, leaving a wage hike in doubt as they scramble to enact a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan within two weeks.

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) were in the midst of drafting a plan to levy a 5% tax on the payrolls of large corporations that don't compensate workers below an unspecified wage. It would be paired with tax credits to incentivize small businesses to raise their employees' wages.

The senators ditched their proposal. According to a person familiar with the decision, finalizing the plan and getting every Democrat onboard imperiled the passage of the legislation before the expiration of enhanced unemployment insurance on March 14 for millions of Americans.

The Washington Post first reported the development.

Sanders and Wyden came up with the alternative after the Senate parliamentarian ruled on Thursday evening that a $15 minimum wage provision in the rescue package did not clear the strict guidelines of the reconciliation process. The move blocks the measure from moving ahead under the process Democrats are using, which needs 51 votes in the Senate to bypass Republicans.

Experts said the backup plan risked being inefficient at raising hourly wages. Arindrajit Dube, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, wrote in an email to Insider that "the devil is in the details."

Dube noted that most minimum wage workers don't work for large corporations, so the plan may encourage those businesses to accelerate outsourcing to third-party contractors to avoid the tax.

"For these reasons, any tax-based minimum wage scheme should be broad-based in my opinion, in contrast to proposals from Senators Sanders and Wyden as I understand them," Dube said. "Senator Wyden's tax incentive to small businesses are also unlikely to be very effective and will largely go to employers who are already paying higher wages."

The move slashes the odds of a wage increase becoming part of the stimulus plan, with little time left to draft legislation that would comply with the budget reconciliation process.

Still, Democrats such as Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, chair of the Senate Banking Committee, say they will find a way to bump the federal minimum wage, which hasn't increased from $7.25 an hour since 2009.

"Democrats are united in giving a raise. We're going to raise wages," he told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. "We're going to find a way to. It's just too important not to."

Read the original article on Business Insider

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