Sen. Sinema breaks with Democrats on $15 minimum wage

Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) has broken with fellow Democrats on a federal $15 minimum wage that is included in President Joe Biden‘s $1.9 trillion 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 told Politico in an interview this week.

With the U.S. Senate currently split 50-50, Democrats need all the votes they can get in order to pass the package through budget reconciliation, which Sinema, a moderate who was elected in 2018 and became the first Democrat to become a senator for Arizona since 1988, opposes doing for the minimum wage provision.

“The minimum wage provision is not appropriate for the reconciliation process. It is not a budget item. And it shouldn’t be in there,” she also told Politico.

Her opposition to the provision, which Democrats and Biden campaigned for in 2020, could end up dooming the massive package.

Budget reconciliation is a tool that allows legislation to pass with a majority, circumventing the 60-vote filibuster threshold, which Democrats are using to force the bill through the Senate and to the Resolute desk. It should be noted, however, that this tool only pertains to bills dealing with budgetary matters.

However, amid recent calls from many Democrats to get rid of the age-old filibuster rule, Sinema told Politico that she wants to not only keep it, but to also rebuild it.

“There is no instance in which I would overrule a parliamentarian’s decision,” Sinema said. “I want to restore the 60-vote threshold for all elements of the Senate’s work.”

Sinema is joined by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D), who also opposes scrapping the filibuster.

“If I haven’t said it very plain, maybe Sen. McConnell hasn’t understood, I want to basically say it for you. That I will not vote in this Congress, that’s two years, right? I will not vote” to change the filibuster, Manchin told Politico in a late-January interview. “And I hope with that guarantee in place he will work in a much more amicable way.”

Despite Biden having called for a $15 minimum wage multiple times, he told CBS on Sunday that the provision would likely not show up in the final coronavirus package due to it not being a budgetary item and not being related to giving Americans pandemic relief.

“I do think that we should have a minimum wage, stand by itself [at] $15 an hour,” Biden said to CBS’ Norah O’Donnell. “Well, apparently, that’s not going to occur because of the rules of the United States Senate. […] I don’t think it’s going to survive.”

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.