- The Washington Times - Friday, February 12, 2021

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona Democrat, said in a new interview that she opposes including a hike in the federal minimum wage to $15-per-hour under the fast-track budget process Democrats are using to pass President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

The opposition would likely deal a death blow to the short-term prospects of getting the wage hike to Mr. Biden’s desk.

Ms. Sinema said if items are unrelated to short-term COVID-19 relief, she won’t support including them.

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

In a further blow to Democrats’ dreams of a far-reaching package, she said there’s no chance she’d vote to overrule the Senate parliamentarian on decisions about what would pass muster under the chamber’s rules.

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

Democrats are leveraging the tool known as reconciliation to thwart a possible GOP filibuster in the Senate.

But in a 50-50 chamber, they can’t afford to lose a single Democrat assuming Republicans are unified in opposition. Vice President Kamala Harris would serve as the tiebreaker.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, another more moderate member, has also expressed reservations about hiking the wage to $15 an hour.

Asked about Ms. Sinema, Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont said Friday that he’s feeling good about getting the minimum wage hike in the final bill.

“We’ve got to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, to 15 bucks an hour, and that’s what I intend to do,” said Mr. Sanders, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee.

Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, House Democrats’ chief vote-counter, said the issue isn’t dead.

“We may lose two Democrats. We may pick up three or four Republicans,” Mr. Clyburn said Friday on CNN. “I don’t know.”

A Congressional Budget Office report from this week said Mr. Sanders’ bill to increase the wage from $7.25 per hour to $15 by 2025 would cost 1.4 million jobs, though it would also lift about 900,000 people out of poverty.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said Thursday that a minimum wage hike to $15 per hour will be in the package the House sends over to the Senate.

Mr. Sanders said earlier this week there aren’t enough votes for a minimum wage hike to break the typical 60-vote filibuster threshold.

“It’s going to be in reconciliation if I have anything to say about it — the only way we’re going to get it passed,” he said. “There are no Republicans who are interested in a $15-an-hour minimum wage.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York said the minimum wage hike might not pass muster with Senate rules that say reconciliation bills are supposed to be limited to certain tax and spending legislation.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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