Senator Kyrsten Sinema, six of her Democrat colleagues and one Independent joined Republicans to kill an attempt to include a $15 minimum wage mandate in the pandemic relief bill currently making its way through Congress. The amendment was shot down by a vote of 42-58, with all Republicans voting no. The vote means the fight for a living wage must now be passed as an independentpiece of legislation subject to a Republican filibuster that would effectively kill its passage. Sinema posted an explanation for her vote to Twitter, saying she supported a national minimum wage but did not want it included in the relief package.
“No person who works full time should live in poverty,” Sinema, a Democrat representing Arizona, said in her statement. “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 [pandemic-focused] reconciliation bill.”
A video has gone viral — and drawn criticism — as Sinema made a show of doing a thumbs down on the floor. Some have also taken to call the senator Marie Antoinette as she brought a cake into the Capitol building today.
The reconciliation process is sometimes used when both houses of Congress have approved separate versions of the same spending bill, and then negotiate to produce a final bill satisfactory to both sides which is then passed by a simple majority vote. Since Democrats hold 48 seats with two independent senators caucusing and voting with Democrats, Vice President Kamala Harris would cast the deciding 51st vote as president of the Senate in case of a tie.
The out bisexual Sinema has been serving in the Senate since 2018, when she defeated Republican nominee Martha McSally in the election to replace outgoing Republican Senator Jeff Flake. This is not the first time she has dissented with the majority of Democrats.
Joining Sinema in voting with the Republicans were Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana, Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, and Tom Carper and Chris Coons of Delaware. Independent Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats, also voted against the attempt.
The comments in response to Sinema’s vote and explanation were decidedly negative.
One commenter noted a living wage “is part of the relief Americans need” and questioned the desire to wait when so many people are suffering now.
While rejection of the bill was not unexpected, the actions by Senator Sinema were seen as disappointing by many, and supporters of the living wage have been left scrambling to find a way to bring the much needed paycheck relief while the country recovers from the economic fallout of the global pandemic.