DOVER — Delaware’s two senators joined six other members of the Democratic caucus and all 50 Republicans in blocking a minimum-wage vote Friday.
Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons voted against adding to a COVID-19-relief measure a provision that would increase the minimum wage to $15, even though both have called for raising the federal wage floor.
President Joe Biden had sought to include the minimum-wage increase in his stimulus package, but the Senate parliamentarian ruled it could not be done as part of the COVID-19-relief plan. The House had passed its version of the Senate proposal containing a wage hike.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, attempted to add language for a $15 minimum wage to the package, though it failed by a 58-42 vote.
Sens. Carper and Coons received criticism from the left for their votes, but both senators’ offices indicated the Democrats still hope to see a $15 minimum wage soon.
The federal minimum wage, last increased in 2009, is $7.25.
Brendan Mackie, a spokesman for Sen. Coons, said the senator had concerns about the impact of Friday’s proposal, which would have lifted the wage to $15 by 2025. Any future increase should be more gradual to avoid overburdening small businesses, which are already struggling mightily from the pandemic, and should include funding to support employment for people with disabilities, Mr. Mackie said.
“Every Democrat and many Republicans agree that the federal minimum wage of $7.25 is too low and has been for too long,” Sen. Coons said in a statement. “It has to be raised. President Biden has called for us to raise it to $15 an hour. I will work with my colleagues on legislation to raise the minimum wage and index it annually.”
In a statement, Sen. Carper also expressed optimism about approving an increase in the near future.
“We know that hard-working families in Delaware and throughout the country deserve more support. Americans who are working full time should be earning a living wage that allows them to support themselves and their families,” he said.
“As governor of Delaware, I led not one, but three successful efforts to raise my state’s minimum wage, and I have backed a $15 minimum wage on the federal level for years. At a time when our economy is still slowly recovering, though, policymakers have a responsibility to be especially mindful of the fragile state of small businesses all across this country — many of which are fighting just to stay open during this unprecedented crisis.
“In the months to come, I commit to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to craft a sustainable path forward on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and raising the tipped wage as well. We can do this in a way that heeds the unique needs of small businesses at this moment, gives millions of workers in this country a long overdue raise and lifts families out of poverty.”
The Delaware Democratic Party platform calls for a $15 minimum wage. A bill to raise the current salary floor in Delaware from $9.25 to that level over four years is expected to be introduced in the General Assembly as soon as today.