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Since 2009, the federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour. It looks like it will remain there for a while longer.
After promising during the 2020 presidential campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15, President Joe Biden included a provision to do that in his American Rescue Plan, a legislative proposal early in his tenure that was designed to bolster the economy and battle the coronavirus pandemic.
But the minimum wage provision was stripped from the measure before its final passage.
The Senate considered the American Rescue Plan under "budget reconciliation" rules, which allow the bill to be passed by a simple majority rather than needing to clear a 60-vote threshold. However, to use this process, all provisions in the bill must be deemed by the Senate parliamentarian to have enough of a fiscal impact on the federal government to qualify for inclusion in the bill.
The Senate parliamentarian ruled that the minimum wage provision would not have enough of an impact on the federal government's finances to be included in the bill. So the overall measure passed on a party-line vote, but it didn't include the minimum wage boost.
Senate Democrats have had an opportunity to pursue a minimum wage hike on its own under ordinary rules, but have not done so.
"The $15 an hour national minimum wage promise has definitely been stalled," said Ben Zipperer, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute, a left-of-center think tank.
Among the general public, the $15 hourly minimum wage is popular; the Pew Research Center found support among two-thirds of those polled. But business groups and their allies among lawmakers have traditionally fought minimum wage hikes, arguing that they would raise costs for employers and potentially cause job losses.
One silver lining, Zipperer said, is that Biden has issued an executive order for federal contractors that would raise the minimum wage to $15 in January 2022. An Economic Policy Institute analysis suggested that wages will rise for about 390,000 federal workers. But that's not as sweeping as Biden's campaign promise.
We rate the promise Stalled.
NPR, "Senate Can't Vote On $15 Minimum Wage, Parliamentarian Rules," Feb. 25, 2021
Economic Policy Institute, "EPI comments on proposal to increase the minimum wage for federal contractors," Aug. 27, 2021
Email interview with Ben Zipperer, economist with the Economic Policy Institute, Dec. 14, 2021
Along with almost every other Democratic presidential hopeful, Joe Biden called for a $15 minimum wage during the 2020 campaign.
Biden said his administration would "increase the federal minimum wage to $15 across the country and eliminate the minimum tipped wage."
Since 2009, the federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour, though states and localities can pass higher minimum wages if they choose. Measured in inflation-adjusted dollars, the current minimum wage is lower than it was from the mid-1950s to late 1980s, and lower than it was in many years since then.
Meanwhile, the minimum tipped wage means that a tipped employee, such as a server in a restaurant, can be paid as little as $2.13 an hour by their employer, as long as tips bring their total income past the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that Biden proposed to bolster the economy and battle the coronavirus pandemic includes a proposal for a $15 minimum wage.
"Throughout the pandemic, millions of American workers have put their lives on the line to keep their communities and country functioning, including the 40% of frontline workers who are people of color," the proposal said. Biden went on to call for Congress "to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and end the tipped minimum wage and sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities so that workers across the country can live a middle class life and provide opportunity for their families."
Among the general public, the $15 minimum wage is popular; the Pew Research Center found support among two-thirds of those polled. But business groups and their allies among lawmakers have traditionally fought minimum wage hikes, arguing that they would raise costs for employers and potentially cause job losses.
Even supporters of raising the minimum wage express concern about having a $15 minimum applied equally across the country. They suggest that while it may make sense in high-cost urban areas, it could be more economically disruptive in lower-wage, lower-cost, rural areas.
So far, Biden's proposal is just that — a proposal — and it hasn't yet been turned into actual legislation. And even once it is put into a bill, there's no guarantee that it will pass.
However, by putting it into his $1.9 trillion relief proposal, Biden has prioritized this as a major part of his economic plan. That's enough to rate this promise In the Works.
Biden-Harris campaign, "The Biden Agenda for the Latino Community," accessed Jan. 21, 2021
Joe Biden transition, "President-elect Biden Announces American Rescue Plan," January 2021
PolitiFact, "What's in Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan?" Jan. 15, 2021
PolitiFact, "Fact-checking a $15 minimum wage," May 9, 2016
Department of Labor, federal minimum wage main page, accessed Jan. 21, 2021
Department of Labor, minimum tipped wage main page, accessed Jan. 21, 2021
Brookings Institution, "Even a divided America agrees on raising the minimum wage," Nov. 13, 2020
Washington Post, "Do you support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour nationwide?" accessed Jan. 21, 2021
CNN, "The US minimum wage through the years," April 9, 2019