COVID Relief: Why Schrader Voted “No”

Updated March 3, 2021: 

If the $15/hour minimum wage hike were to be voted in, it would result in a $1.50/hour raise for the next five years. This would mean the current federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour would increase to $8.75/hour then $9.25/hour etc. For the counties represented by Rep. Kurt Schrader, this increase would not have significant effect as the Oregon minimum wage is currently $12/hour and due to increase to $12.75/hour in July. 

However, the federal minimum wage increase did not make it into the final bill that was sent to the senate. 

There’s been a lot of talk about the fact that the $1.9 trillion bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives didn’t receive a single Republican vote. Less attention has been given to the fact that it didn’t get the votes of two Democrats. Not surprisingly, those Democrats were on the rightward fringe of the party, in Republican-leaning districts, but that one of them was from Oregon was still something of a surprise, given how polarized politics have become in the state. Kurt Schrader is as anomalous as the district he represents, which is made up of two counties on the coast and two and a half in the Valley, including the city of Salem and some Portland suburbs, but also large rural areas with a heavy Republican population. It’s the one district in the state that no-one considers to be solidly “blue” or “red.” 

Schrader wasn’t pleased by the bill, and told KGW that his constituents “don’t agree with the one-size-fits-all far-left approach.” 

When his decision to break from his party on the COVID relief bill was questioned, Schrader was characteristically blunt. “You want someone that’s going to be a party hack, elect somebody else. You want someone that’s going to represent the fifth congressional district of Oregon and my great state, you elect me.” 

Schrader was especially displeased with the bill’s provision to raise the minimum wage, which has not risen since 2009: “I’d argue respectfully, as a small businessman for 30 plus years, there’s not a small businessman or woman out there that thinks raising the minimum wage in the middle of a pandemic, when we’re trying to get them to hire people, makes sense, particularly in struggling restaurant and hospitality industries.” 

Schrader also said that the bill’s increase in the minimum wage was “disingenuous to the American people,” since the Senate parliamentarian has declared that the provision could not be included in the Senate version of the bill – although others have pointed out that the parliamentarian’s word is not actually final, and Vice President Harris has the power to overrule that decision.  

By: John M. Burt