President Joe Biden to Raise Minimum Wage, Increase Food Stamp Benefits

President Joe Biden is getting a lot done during his first few weeks in office, with the new Commander-in-Chief pushing to raise the minimum wage and increase food stamp benefits. According to the AP, Biden and other top Democrat leaders are working to make the national minimum wage $15 per hour. Biden has included the measure in his nearly $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill proposal, along with the $1,400 stimulus checks he previously announced.

The news of Biden's minimum wage plan comes after he signed an executive order intended to increase food stamp benefits for those who have been so severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic that they have had reduced access to food. NPR quoted Biden's top economic adviser, Brian Deese, as saying of the order, "The American people can't afford to wait, and so many are hanging by a thread. They need help." Deese also reportedly noted that the food stamp plan was something the administration wanted to do separate from the stimulus bill, as it's estimated that 29 million adults and roughly eight million children have been suffering from hunger due to the pandemic.

While Biden has not met much pushback on his food stamp benefit order, he is facing some resistance from the GOP on his minimum wage plan. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) are two lawmakers who have urged Biden to split the minimum wage plan from the stimulus package and make it a separate negotiation. "The more you throw into this bucket of COVID relief that's not really related to the crisis, the more you risk the credibility with the American people that you're really sincere about the crisis," Reed said. Murkowski added that including the wage increase in the relief proposal "complicates politically an initiative that we should all be working together to address."

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Most Democrats, however, are supportive of the measure, such as the incoming chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Bernie Sanders (D-VT). "As you will recall, my Republican colleagues used reconciliation to give almost $2 trillion in tax breaks to the rich and large corporations in the midst of massive income inequality. They used reconciliation to try to repeal the Affordable Care Act and throw 32 million people off the health care they had. They used reconciliation to allow for drilling in the Arctic wilderness," Sanders said. "You know what? I think we can use reconciliation to protect the needs of working families."