Another shot at raising the minimum wage in the U.S. has evaporated, even with Democrats in control of the Senate.
As Democrats tried to tack a last-minute amendment to raise the federal minimum wage onto the $1.9 trillion coronavirus pandemic relief bill, one of the party’s newer members made a show of voting against the measure.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona not only voted against Senator Bernie Sanders’ proposal to bring the national minimum wage to $15, she walked into the Senate earlier Friday morning with a cake in hand, and then later gave everyone a clear idea of what she thinks of the measure that two-thirds of Americans are clamoring for.
A spokesperson for Senator Sinema later told VICE News that the cake was meant for the Senate floor staff who were up the previous night reading the COVID-19 relief bill. The reading took 10 hours and 43 minutes to read.
Sinema was one of seven Democrats who opposed the measure. Others included Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana, Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, and Tom Carper and Chris Coons of Delaware. Independent Angus King from Maine, who caucuses with the Democrats, also voted nay, along with all 50 Republican senators.
Sinema later explained in a public statement that while she understands people are having a tough time making ends meet during the pandemic and has supported local minimum wage increases in the past, she just couldn’t do the same on the national stage.
“Senators in both parties have shown support for raising the federal minimum wage and the Senate should hold an open debate and amendment process on raising the minimum wage separate from the COVID-focus reconciliation bill,” she said in her statement.
Her constituents and fellow Democrats were not impressed.
“It is unconscionable that eight Senate Democrats would tell millions of essential workers earning poverty wages that they are ‘heroes’ but don’t deserve a $15 minimum wage,” one Democratic strategist tweeted.
“Did Sinema really have [to] vote against a $15 minimum wage for 24 million people like this?” the senior advisor to former HUD secretary and former presidential candidate Julian Castro said.
“So ashamed that my senator supports the exploitation of millions of workers, then to add insult to injury puts out this bad-faith statement,” one of Sinema’s constituents responded.
Many suggested that Sinema’s actions echoed those of Marie Antoinette, the French queen who supposedly dismissed the very real cries for help from the starving and struggling working class by saying “Let them eat cake.” That, of course, didn’t end well for her.
Sanders, who proposed the vote, hasn’t lost hope yet.
“If any senator believes this is the last time they will cast a vote on whether to give a raise to 32 million Americans, they are sorely mistaken,” he tweeted an hour after his proposal failed.
“We’re going to keep bringing it up, and we’re going to get it done, because it is what the American people demand and need.”