Jen Psaki says Biden still backs a $15 minimum wage, but he's done little to prod Congress on it

Jen Psaki says Biden still backs a $15 minimum wage, but he's done little to prod Congress on it
President Joe Biden. Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images
  • The White House says Biden still believes in a $15-per-hour minimum wage.
  • Psaki said Biden believes it's "long overdue," but he's done little to prod Congress on it.

President Joe Biden still supports a $15 minimum wage, the White House says - but he hasn't made any moves to raise it for the vast majority of workers since it was shot down from the stimulus law in March.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a Wednesday briefing, "absolutely, he wants to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour," and Biden thinks "it's long overdue."

Psaki pointed to the guidance of a top Senate official that blocked its inclusion from the rescue package as the main hurdle. In February, Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough advised that a minimum wage proposal was "merely incidental" and therefore ineligible to pass through party-line reconciliation. Eight Democratic senators - including key centrists Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema - voted against putting the wage increase back into the package.

Some progressives urged the party to either fire or overrule the parliamentarian, which requires a majority vote in the 50-50 Senate. But cracks in the party over the speed and amount of a wage increase largely kept them from unifying around a plan.

It's true that Biden has been a vocal proponent of a $15 minimum wage. The proposed hike formed a key plank of his presidential candidacy, and he has continually reiterated his support for a raise.


"We're at $7.25 an hour. No one should work 40 hours a week and live in poverty," Biden said in his first presidential town hall.

The federal minimum wage has remained stagnant for the past 12 years. It was last raised to $7.25 in 2009 - and hasn't been raised since. Poll after poll shows Americans support a higher rate, but Congress is still stuck at an impasse. There hasn't been a meaningful legislative push to raise it since March's stimulus package. Senior Democrats gathered to discuss the issue at least once but those talks fizzled out.

In the meantime, some states have taken matters into their own hands. Florida, which former president Donald Trump won in the 2020 election, was the most recent state to hike its minimum; it will go up to $15 by 2026. All told, more than half of states have a federal minimum wage above $7.25.

Current wage pressures from ongoing labor crunches have also de facto pushed up the minimum wage across industries. Consistent wage growth pushed the average hourly wage up to $30.85 in September. In leisure and hospitality, the average hourly wage was $16.71 in September.

To be sure, Biden has utilized the limited mechanisms available to a president without party consensus to raise wages where he can. Biden issued an executive order to bring federal contractor pay up to at least $15 an hour, which is set to take effect by January 2022.


Even so, that leaves a wide swath of workers still uncovered by higher wage requirements. A January report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute found that a gradual raise to $15 by 2025 would give 32 million workers a raise.