Pramila Jayapal Says Dems Have to Deliver on $15 Minimum Wage Because 'Voters Trusted Us'

Rep. Jayapal
Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said she believes the inclusion of the increased federal minimum wage in a Senate reconciliation bill is not dead, despite recent roadblocks. Jayapal looks on during the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law hearing on Online Platforms and Market Power in the Rayburn House office Building, July 29, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images

Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said Democrats must make good on their a promise to voters to pass an increased federal minimum wage, no matter the current roadblocks in the Senate.

"This is a critically important issue for us to deliver on because voters trusted us, they said, if we give you the House, the Senate and the White House, and you're telling us you can deliver on this, [then] we are going to have to deliver," Jayapal said Saturday on MSNBC's The Cross Connection with Tiffany Cross to host Tiffany Cross.

The House of Representatives passed President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package on Friday, setting the stage for the Senate to pass the Democrats campaign promise to administer stimulus checks and provide provisional relief to businesses, renters and families.

Jayapal, who is chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a member of the House Budget Committee, spearheaded the effort to include raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 in the House package.

She told Cross she is "proud" of the House for passing the package with the wage hike included, adding that the passage of the increase was "definitely not" a dead matter in Congress despite increasing barriers in the Senate.

Progressives in the Senate hit a wall on Thursday when the Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that Democrats wouldn't be able to include the minimum wage increase in a budget reconciliation bill—a tactic Senate Democrats plan to use to bypass Republicans and pass Biden's package.

MacDonough considered the wage hike an "extraneous" measure, which is not allowed to be included in a reconciliation bill. Because of the ruling, the Senate has now been considering a number of alternative plans to pass a wage hike separately, such as a $10 hour wage increase or a 5 percent tax penalty on big companies who pay their workers less than a standard amount.

Jayapal told Cross the Senate parliamentarian's advisory ruling "is just that"—advice. She said Democrats have the ability to "overrule that ruling or to not listen it" and still include the wage hike in reconciliation, citing historical precedent from former Vice Presidents Hubert Humphrey and Nelson Rockefeller.

We promised workers a $15 minimum wage.

Now we must use every tool necessary to DELIVER.

— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) February 27, 2021

To the Washington representative, delivering the wage increase is also a matter of political accountability for Democrats, who now control all three branches of government.

"I think the reality here is that Democrats ran on a $15 minimum wage hike being able to actually lift 1.3 million people out of poverty," she said.

Jayapal said to Cross one reason she believes the minimum wage hike isn't dead, due to the widespread appeal the issue has to voters in either party.

"This is, as you said a policy that is wildly popular," Jayapal said. "Don't forget that, in Florida, those voters voted for Donald Trump in the presidential election and at the very same time passed, with a super majority, a $15 minimum wage."

The benefits of an increased federal minimum wage would be felt by a lot of Americans, she added. Affected workers would earn an extra $3,300 a year, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Annual government expenditures on public assistance programs are also estimated to fall by as much as $31 billion. Jayapal added the groups to benefit the most would be minorities.

"Let's not forget that out of the 27 million that are going to get a raise, 30 percent of Black workers would get a raise, 26 percent of Latino workers would get a raise, and 60 percent or more of women would get a raise."

Florida became the eighth U.S. state to raise its minimum wage to $15 in November. Congress has not increased the federal minimum wage since 2009.

Newsweek has reached out to Jayapal for comment