Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) blasted anti-wage increase policy makers, citing the millions of Americans who are currently in poverty, struggling to pay bills and make ends meet.
“Any person who thinks that a $15 minimum wage is a crazy socialist agenda is living in a dystopian capitalist nightmare,” Ocasio-Cortez said Sunday evening on MSNBC. “People are sleeping in their cars, they can’t afford baby formula ... it is deeply, deeply shameful that we are even having this conversation.”
Ocasio-Cortez also criticized a fellow colleague, Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), who is a moderate Democrat, as he’s publicly said he wouldn’t vote for a $15 minimum wage, but instead, offered support for an $11 wage hike since that figure would best fit his constituents’ needs.
“His own constituents believe in a $15 minimum wage,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “In almost every pocket of this country you cannot afford rent if you are making minimum wage. And in America, if you are working a full-time job, you should be able to afford to live.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks come as progressive lawmakers pressured the White House to ignore the Senate parliamentarian’s decision last week that deemed raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour as part of the massive coronavirus stimulus package not compliant with budget reconciliation rules, a legislative process that Democrats are using to jam through stimulus with a simple majority, which wouldn’t require a single Republican vote.
“Eighty-one million people cast their ballots to elect you on a platform that called for a $15 minimum wage,” twenty-three congressional lawmakers wrote in a letter addressed to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. “We urge you to keep that promise and call on the presiding officer of the Senate to refute the Senate parliamentarian’s advice.”
While Harris has the authority to reverse the parliamentarian’s ruling of the wage hike due to her position in the Senate, the White House has deflected that alternative.
And even if Harris decided to overturn the decision, it’s unclear whether the $15 wage increase would be successful, as both Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have indicated that they would not back the legislative effort.
Stan Veuger, a resident scholar in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, noted that the progressive push to ignore the parliamentarian’s conclusion has a “slim” chance in succeeding since the Senate majority will not stand behind a relief bill that includes a $15 wage hike.
“The problem is that the Senate majority doesn’t want to pass the package with the $15 minimum wage in it,” Veuger said. “Now, superficially that’s because they don’t want to change the filibuster rules or the reconciliation process or ignore the parliamentarian’s advice, but that unwillingness ultimately reflects a lack of enthusiasm about the underlying substantive issue.”
The federal minimum wage has not increased in more than ten years, but twenty-nine states have moved to change their state minimum wages, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.