A group of Senate Democrats sealed the fate of a failed bid to include a minimum wage hike as part of the latest COVID-19 relief package.
It was Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), however, who is receiving the most attention after her theatrical thumbs-down on the Senate floor as she voted against the measure.
House Democrats previously pushed through a version of the bill that included the proposed $15 per hour increase to the federal minimum wage rate.
In the Senate, however, its inclusion was called into question after the parliamentarian determined that it could not be part of a bill passed under the stricter budget reconciliation process.
Nevertheless, senators voted this week on whether to add the minimum wage hike to the bill anyway. Under reconciliation rules, a simple majority vote is sufficient to pass the measure as opposed to the 6o votes that would otherwise be required.
In an evenly split chamber, Vice President Kamala Harris would represent a tie-breaking vote, meaning Democrats would need no support from the GOP side of the aisle if all members of their party voted in favor.
While this might appear to be the perfect opportunity to push through this longstanding item from the progressive wishlist, President Joe Biden and others in his party ran into a problem when a total of seven Senate Democrats and one independent voted against the plan.
Channeling John McCain
According to reports, the minimum wage increase fell short by a margin of 58-42.
For her part, Sinema expressed her opposition with an emphatic gesture. Her vote came along with a thumbs down, which appeared to be an allusion to the 2017 vote by the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in opposition to his party’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
She explained her stance in a subsequent statement, writing: “Senators in both parties have shown support for raising the federal minimum wage and the Senate should hold an open debate and amendment process on raising the minimum wage, separate from the COVID-focused reconciliation bill.”
The Arizona Democrat went on to promise that she will “keep working with colleagues in both parties to ensure Americans can access good-paying jobs, quality education, and skills training to build more economically secure lives for themselves and their families.”
A self-styled moderate, Sinema has been known to side with Republicans from time to time, making hers an especially powerful vote in a 50-50 senate. With regard to a minimum wage increase, it appears that she and a handful of other Democrats have sent the Biden administration back to the drawing board.