Updated: Mar 10, 2021
Biden's COVID-rescue package wasn't ever ideal. For example, the $2,000 checks became $1,400 checks. And, worse, the checks were one-time events, not monthly for the duration of the pandemic. But progressives played along and talked about how awesome it was. The attack against it came from the right-- predictably from Republicans, who don't have the muscle to do anything about their complaints but whine in the face of the most popular major legislation in decades, but also from conservative Democrats. Stupidly, 8 Democraps voted against hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour-- conservatives Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) who said they would all along plus 6 other who didn't shows their cards 'til yesterday. Here's the full list with their ProgressivePunch career-long crucial vote scores.
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ)-- 51.83
Joe Manchin (WV)-- 53.74
Angus King (I-ME)-- 66.92
Tom Carper (DE)-- 70.44
Jon Tester (MT)-- 72.97
Maggie Hassan (NH)- 73.58
Jeanne Shaheen (NH)- 77.36
Chris Coons (DE)-- 77.45
There's a tiny bit of good news in this list as far as which conservatives aren't on it: Mark Warner (VA), Tim Kaine (VA), Michael Bennet (CO), Frackenlooper (CO), Jacky Rosen (NV), Mark Kelly (AZ), Dianne Feinstein (CA). Still, 8 Democrats voting with the Republicans on something as basic as helping fix the extreme poverty of a catastrophic minimum wage is basic enough to make you wonder why they are Democrats at all.
Former Orlando Congressman Alan Grayson would be running for the Rubio Senate seat now if it was up to me. But it isn't up to me... though I did ask him what he thought of all those Democratic "no" votes. He told me that "Weak Democrats vote against minimum wage increases because of 'left-shaming,' the sense that they must vote against something that the GOP can mischaracterize as 'socialism,' regardless of the actual merits of the proposal. Of course, no one in his right mind would run an attack ad against any Democrat, anywhere in the country, for supporting a $15/hr. minimum wage. But weak Democrats would rather be scared than right."
Now, former state Sen. Erica Smith is running for the Senate-- North Carolina's open Burr seat. Last night she told me that "It’s devastating and inexcusable that there is more bi-partisan support for maintaining a starvation wage than there is for making the minimum wage a living wage. As a Democrat who will be on the ballot in 2022 I am deeply concerned about this inaction and their betrayal of working people. We sent Democratic majorities to Congress with a mandate for action, instead we are seeing bill after bill watered down and stalled. It’s bad politics and it’s bad policy to tell the workers who we’ve spent the past year calling essential that they don’t deserve $15 dollars an hour."
Colin Byrd of legendary Greenbelt, Maryland, is the youngest black mayor in America and he's running for Congress, not the Senate. But his opponent is an establishment icon of the status quo, Steny Hoyer. Hoyer wouldn't dare vote against a minimum wage hike, nor did either of Maryland's two senators. Byrd told me he agrees "that some Senate Democrats have been making multiple politically consequential mistakes by doing things like lowering weekly unemployment benefits and rejecting the $15 minimum wage amendment. Their actions literally mean more people will be stuck in poverty, but I’m not sure how these things are going to affect these senators’ prospects against a Republican challenger, since Republican senators appeared to also reject the proposed minimum wage increase and higher weekly unemployment benefits. And I’m certainly personally less enthusiastic about the senators on both sides of the aisle who went in the wrong direction on these issues, but I’m not sure how Democratic primary or general election voters in Delaware, New Hampshire, Arizona, West Virginia, Montana, and Maine will weigh these issues and assess these incumbents come election time. What’s certain, though, is that conservative Democrats like Manchin and Sinema definitely diminish many people’s-- especially, poor people’s-- confidence in the Democratic Party with moves like this, and Biden shares responsibility for encouraging them in this direction. That said, Sinema said she opposed the $15 minimum wage amendment because she felt it was out of place in the covid-focused reconciliation bill and that she would prefer a separate, standalone bill on the minimum wage issue with an open debate and amendment process. If the minimum wage issue comes to that, I’m hopeful that it won’t be amended down to nothingness and that they don’t end up with Manchin’s $11 minimum wage 'compromise.' While I want Democrats to hold the Senate, these types of things call into question whether the party can really stand firm for anything of consequence. State Republican parties are censuring Republican members of Congress for voting to impeach Trump. When will we get to a point in the Democratic Party where state Democratic parties (or even the Democratic National Committee) censures Democratic members of Congress for opposing minimum wage increases and reducing weekly unemployment benefits?"
Before the vote against the minimum wage increase, Tony Romm and Jeff Stein wrote a piece for Washington Post readers, confusing, as The Post purposefully does, "moderates" for "conservatives," Moderate Democrats Secure Stimulus Changes In Senate. These conservative Democrats are lucky most voters are too stupid to figure out that it isn't just Republicans this poll refers to; it's them too.
Romm and Stein's point is that the right-wing non-moderates they call moderates to confuse people "successfully secured significant, last-minute changes to the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill on Friday, marking an early attempt to flex their new political muscle and shape President Biden’s economic agenda on Capitol Hill." All changes were anti-working class.
The two writers made it clear that "With the Senate equally divided, the party’s [right-wing assholes] sought to portray themselves in the midst of the stimulus debate as a fiscally restrained counterpoint to liberals-- even as they stood with Biden on the need for new emergency aid. But their tactics still threatened to open new political rifts in the party and leave perhaps millions of Americans from obtaining checks and other support they might have otherwise received. In recent days, [the right-wing assholes] have narrowed federal stimulus payments, brokered a tentative deal to revamp future unemployment benefits, and halted a renewed effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $15-an-hour. The changes mark a break from the bill approved in the House, where lawmakers fought vigorously for their version of the stimulus out of a belief that the 2020 election had given them a mandate to deliver economic reforms that had flagged under Trump."
I'd love to see a gaggle of progressives vote NO on the changes and tell Biden to get back to them after he deals with his conservative pals in the Senate. Think anyone has that kind of moxie? It would take about a half dozen of 'em. And even if someone like Cori Bush goes for it, I can't see any of the others backing her up. You?