Biden administration pushes back on Brnovich lawsuit over $15 minimum wage

By Howie Fischer | PinalCentral

 The Biden administration says state Attorney General Mark Brnovich has no right to second guess — and sue — over the president’s decision to set a $15 minimum wage for employees of federal contractors.

In filings in federal court here, Justin Sandberg, an assistant U.S. attorney, told Judge John Tuchi that Congress gave the president “broad powers’’ to decide the policies for providing goods and services to the federal government. And that, he said, includes the terms in which it will do business, including how much those contractors must pay their workers.

More to the point, Sandberg said Arizona has no specific interest in the policy that would allow it and a handful of other states to challenge Biden’s decision. He said claims that it would somehow affect state revenues are entirely “speculative.’’

“And speculative harm does not suffice to sue in federal court,’’ Sandberg told the judge.

He also suggested that if Brnovich thought the president was acting illegally he should have acted long before this, pointing out that similar rules existed under both the Obama and Trump administrations.

Federal law going back to 1949 allows the president to establish policies for the executive branch he considers necessary to foster an “economical and efficient system’’ to obtain goods and services.

Using that, Biden issued an executive order last year requiring federal agencies to put a requirement in all contracts that workers are paid at least $15 an hour.

All that, Brnovich said in filing suit, is beyond the president’s authority. And he noted that Congress actually rejected an administration proposal in a COVID relief package to increase the federal minimum wage for all workers, now $7.25 an hour, to $15.

What Biden has done, Brnovich charged, is do an end-run, complete with a definition of who is a federal contractor that would sweep in more than 500,000 businesses that employ one fifth of the entire U.S. labor force.

“But the United States is not a dictatorship,’’ the attorney general charged. “Notwithstanding the president’s conviction that he — and not Congress — knows what the appropriate minimum wage should be, he can only act consistent with the law as set out by Congress.’’

READ ON: Sandberg, in the response, said that is what Biden is doing.

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