Bernie Sanders Warns of ‘Political Consequences’ for Opponents of $17 Minimum Wage

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) / screenshot
May 5, 2023

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) had an ominous message for Democrats who oppose his proposal to raise the minimum wage to $17 per hour. 

"Right now we’re focusing on making sure that we have the votes in the Senate and the House to raise the minimum wage," Sanders said on Thursday. "I don’t think there’s a state in the country where people do not believe we should raise the minimum wage. I would hope that every member of Congress understands and there will be political consequences … if they don’t." 

Sanders is pushing a proposal that would raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour to $17 over the next five years. He supported a similar measure in 2021 to raise the minimum wage to $15 but was unsuccessful because eight Senate Democrats opposed the bill. 

This time, three of those same senators face tough races in the 2024 midterms, the Hill reported

Three of those senators face tough reelection races: Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), who left the Democratic Party in December to become an Independent. 

Schumer wants to protect his vulnerable colleagues from taking tough votes before the 2024 election, when Democrats will have to defend 23 seats to keep their narrow Senate majority.  

Manchin said in 2021 he would instead support raising the minimum wage to $11 an hour and indexing it for inflation.

Tester at the time voiced concern about imposing a sudden and dramatic increase in the minimum wage. 

"I think the minimum wage needs to come up. But I think we need to extend it out a ways before it hits the $15 figure," he said.  

The proposal comes as the majority of Americans are stressed about finances. A CNBC poll showed that 70 percent of Americans "admit to being stressed about their personal finances these days." Sixty percent of respondents blamed inflation, which the Biden administration is downplaying. Treasury secretary Janet Yellen said last month that the country "is doing very well."