WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Neera Tanden, Democratic President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, told U.S. senators on Wednesday she would support raising the federal minimum wage, without giving a target for a higher rate.
“Absolutely,” she said at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee after the panel’s chairman, Senator Bernie Sanders, asked her if she would help move to end “starvation wages” in the country “by raising the minimum wage over a period of several years.”
Tanden said recent studies had challenged the conventional view about the impact of minimum wage increases on jobs and determined that job loss rates due to such raises were “relatively low.”
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) this week said Biden’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour from the current rate of $7.25 by 2025 would take 900,000 people out of poverty that year, but would also cut employment by 1.4 million jobs.
Asked if she believed the loss of 1.4 million jobs would be “relatively low,” Tanden said she did not, but believed recent studies should also be considered. “I think the important thing is to be guided by facts and evidence,” she said.
Republicans in Congress have opposed the increase as an undue burden on businesses that would reduce employment.
Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, on Monday said he disagreed with the CBO report. But he said he viewed it as bolstering the case for using budget reconciliation rules to pass a minimum wage hike as part of Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, with 50 Democratic votes in the Senate plus a tie-breaking vote by Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris, who presides over the chamber.
Using reconciliation would get around the requirement for 60 votes to win approval for major legislation, which is unlikely given that Republicans hold 50 Senate seats.
Biden had said in an interview with CBS on Friday that he did not expect the minimum wage proposal to be part of the coronavirus package due to Senate rules.
But White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday that Biden remained committed to the increase, and the Senate’s parliamentarian had yet to decide whether the proposal could be included in the relief package.
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