Coons and Carper

Delaware's two senators, Tom Carper and Chris Coons, were among a group of six Democrats joining 50 Republicans in voting against adding a minimum wage increase into the COVID relief bill.

The 56-44 vote struck down an attempted amendment by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders looking to tack a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour into the $1.9 trillion proposal that includes a $1,400 stimulus check for many Americans.

The current federally mandated minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, although it is higher in many states. It was last raised on the federal level in 2009.

Carper explained the reasoning for his vote in a statement:

“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. 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."

Coons said his vote was connected to wanting to have a more measured increase, although he didn't make it clear why this proposal didn't work.

“Every Democrat and many Republicans agree that the federal minimum wage of $7.25 is too low and has been for too long. 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.”

Coons also spoke about the topic last month in a Zoom call with reporters.

"We have to raise the federal minimum wage, but we have to raise it in a way that recognizes that some of our economic sectors, restaurants and hotels, in particular, have been hit particularly hard. I'm looking at a proposal that would gradually increase the minimum wage over a number of years after this pandemic so that businesses can plan for it, families can plan for it, and we get to the point over a couple of years, where folks who are adults who are working full time are not in poverty. I think a basic principle is that any adult who's working full time at a minimum wage job ought to be able to afford the basics of life. And $7.25 is the federal minimum, which hasn't been raised in many years, is just far too low. And I think we're ultimately going to come together around a proposal that gradually increases the federal minimum wage over a number of years."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, about 392,000 workers earned the minimum wage of $7.25 in 2019 and 1.2 million workers were paid a wage below the federal minimum. They represent 1.9% of the 82.3 million American workers paid by the hour.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, said the Senate “should hold an open debate and amendment process on raising the minimum wage, separate from the COVID-focused reconciliation bill.”
WDEL has reached out to both Carper and Coons' offices for more information on their votes.
Information from CNN was used in this report