Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
February 17, 2021

As detailed yesterday, House committees continue to hold conference calls to assemble COVID relief legislation which House and Senate Democrats plan to pass through the budget reconciliation process. President Biden indicated last night that he’s open to negotiation on his proposal for a $15 minimum wage, a centerpiece of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that’s emerged as a flash point as congressional Democrats push the legislation forward.  Biden suggested he could be open to a longer phase-in than the current plan of five years in Democrats’ legislation. He also argued that phasing gradually up to $15 could be beneficial while having less potential impact on business owners.  He made the comments in response to a small-business owner at a town hall hosted by CNN in Milwaukee on Tuesday night.

With former president Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial finally out of the way in the Senate, Democrats are preparing to push the legislation through a few final procedural hoops before an expected floor vote next week in the House. From there, the legislation would go to the Senate.  The proposal would increase emergency federal unemployment benefits from $300 to $400 a week and extend them into September. The benefits right now are set to expire on March 14.  Two moderate Democrats in the Senate — Joe Manchin III (West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (Arizonia) — have indicated that they oppose increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. If the Senate strips out the minimum wage increase and sends the legislation back to the House without it, progressives in the House would face a decision about whether to support the package anyway.  In a letter to Senate leaders on Monday, the top Republicans on multiple Senate committees with jurisdiction over elements of the legislation slammed what they called a “completely partisan process” and asked to be involved.  CNBC Op-ed: Why Democrats are right to use budget reconciliation for COVID relief package.

President Biden is scheduled to meet in the White House today with senior labor union leaders, to discuss massive federal investment in infrastructure as well as efforts to create jobs in clean tech and alternative energy.  Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, will be meeting with the president and Vice President Kamala Harris in the Oval Office, joined by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and other labor leaders.  White House officials have been holding regular meetings with lawmakers and outside groups as the president prepares to unveil an economic recovery package that will focus on improving U.S. infrastructure and creating jobs. Last week, President Biden met with a bipartisan group of senators, as well as mayors and governors.  President Biden committed during the campaign to work to rebuild the economy by building modern sustainable infrastructure and a clean energy future.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.