Senate Democrats had originally planned to move forward this week on legislation to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10, but it was delayed in part so the chamber could tackle extended unemployment benefits, which may pass later today.
The delay, however, also carried an unintended consequence: the prospect of a "compromise
" on the issue, spearheaded by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
Democratic leaders so far are sticking to the $10.10-an-hour wage they're proposing, while many Republicans, including more moderate lawmakers, say they are likely to filibuster the bill. But the moderate Maine Republican says she's leading a bipartisan group of senators hoping to strike a deal.
Collins hasn't released the details of her proposal, which makes sense given that the talks are still ongoing, but Roll Call's piece suggests she's open to a minimum-wage increase, so long as it's smaller. By some accounts, the Maine Republican is eyeing a $9/hour minimum wage, up from the current $7.25/hour, which would be phased in slowly over three years.
But Collins also hopes to trade this modest minimum-wage increase for a partial rollback of the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act and some small business tax cuts.
The senator is calling her plan "a work in progress."
One might also call it "something that won't happen."
Greg Sargent had a good piece
on this yesterday, noting that Dems don't seem to have much of an incentive to drop their target minimum-wage threshold.
For one thing, Democratic aides point out, the idea of such a compromise may be fanciful. Even if it were possible to win over a few Republicans for a lower raise, you'd probably risk losing at least a few Democrats on the left, putting 60 out of reach (Republicans would still filibuster the proposal). Indeed, the office of Senator Tom Harkin -- the chief proponent of a hike to $10.10 -- tells me he'll oppose any hike short of that.... Labor is already putting Dems on notice that supporting a smaller hike is unacceptable.
Even the balance of the so-called "compromise" is off. As Collins sees it, Republicans would get quite a bit in exchange for Democrats making important concessions on their popular, election-year idea.
That's not much of a "deal."
Complicating matters, even if Dems went along with Collins' offer, there's no reason to believe House Republicans would accept any proposal to increase the minimum wage by any amount.
It sets Senate Democrats up with a choice: fight for the $10.10 minimum-wage increase they want (and watch Senate Republicans kill it) or pursue a $9 minimum-wage increase they don't want (and watch House Republicans kill it).
Don't be too surprised if the party sees this as an easy call.