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Sen. Sinema opposes including $15 minimum wage in COVID relief plan

PHOENIX – Democratic U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona doesn’t think a provision to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 belongs in the next COVID relief package.

“What’s important is whether or not it’s directly related to short-term COVID relief. And if it’s not, then I am not going to support it in this legislation,” Sinema told Politico in a recent phone interview.

“The minimum wage provision is not appropriate for the reconciliation process. It is not a budget item. And it shouldn’t be in there.”

Her comments were posted Friday in a story with the headline: “The most influential Democrat you never hear from.”

It remains to be seen whether the wage increase will remain in President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan.

With her party holding slim Senate majority, Sinema’s lack of support for the wage item could be significant.

“Bipartisanship is always my first choice,” she said. “I also want to make sure that we’re getting stuff done for Arizonans,” Sinema told Politico.

“They need help … and I don’t want to see a process that gets bogged down in petty partisanship, like you did last year for much of the year.”

It still hasn’t been determined whether the wage provision can, per Senate rules, be included in a budget-related bill that requires a only majority, and not 60 votes, to pass.

Biden himself has said he’s not sure the provision will make it into the massive final bill, which is expected to be completed some time next month.

Increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour would reduce the number of Americans living in poverty and boost wages for millions of Americans while adding to the federal debt and joblessness, a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office projected.

The proposal would more than double the federal minimum wage, which hasn’t changed since 2009, from $7.25.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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