WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Friday, during a flurry of amendments in the early morning, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst introduced an amendment to stop any increase of the minimum wage during the pandemic.
“We all support higher wages but a $15 federal minimum wage would be counterproductive to this goal,” Ernst said.
The amendment passed, surprisingly with the support of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who says he’s focused on long-term improvements.
“My legislation gradually increases the minimum wage to $15 an hour over a five year period,” Sanders said.
The minimum wage debate will continue, but Friday’s vote shows supporters have an uphill road in front of them.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy said an increase to $15 helps the country.
“A higher minimum wage helps lift the entire economy,” Warren said.
“When everyone is making more money and spending more money, what it does is create a lot more customers,” Murphy said.
But, Republicans like New York Congressman Tom Reed and Pennsylvania Congressman Fred Keller say wages should be determined by local markets.
“That’s a drastic difference in what happens in upstate western New York and Northern Tier Pennsylvania versus New York City,” Reed said.
“What we should do is create an environment where people can get the job skills they need, they can get good-paying jobs, and businesses can compete with that labor and raise everybody’s wages,” Keller said.
The White House considers a $15 minimum wage essential and will keep pushing for an increase.