Congressional Democrats and Joe Biden made the $15 minimum wage a top priority during his first weeks in office. President Biden says his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour will bring many people out of poverty. While there are many benefits, some argue it could cost jobs as the nation recovers from the pandemic layoffs. It’s now at risk of being included in Biden’s coronavirus package, and progressives who have fought for years to raise wages say this isn’t the way to do it. 

The last time Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage was in 2007, to $7.25 an hour. Unfortunately, a settlement less than Biden’s initial proposal of gradually scaling up to $15 an hour by 2025 may occur. 

“There’s an awareness on the part of every member of the Democratic caucus that $7.25 is a starvation wage,” Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, said. “The American people strongly support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and I’m confident that members of the Democratic caucus are going to do the right thing.”

The $15 minimum wage is off the shelf for Senate Republicans, who argue that it will hurt small businesses and lead to job loss. Furthermore, Republicans have concluded that individual states are more equipped to raise minimum wages above the federal floor. Senate Republicans seem to be set on not voting for a higher mandate, which is what is leading the democratic party to include the provision in the coronavirus package rather than putting up a fight with a standalone bill.

“While we continue to support an increase in the federal minimum wage, we believe that the increase should be thoughtfully designed to reflect regional differences in wage rates and to ensure that the increase does not undermine small business recovery,” said Joshua Bolten, president of Business Roundtable.

Currently, 29 states and the District of Columbia have minimum wages greater than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Employees in large cities such as Atlanta, Houston, and Philadelphia are still being paid as little as $7.25 an hour.