Senate MP Rules Democrats Cannot Include Minimum Wage Increase in COVID-19 Financial Aid Bill


The Senate MP ruled Thursday that Democrats cannot include the $ 15 hourly minimum wage increase in the COVID-19 financial aid package. It’s a major setback for Democrats like Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had argued that he could even be included in the budget reconciliation process.

But President Biden told “CBS Evening News” host Norah O’Donnell earlier this month, he did not believe the minimum wage increase would finally be included.

The increase “is not going to happen because of the rules of the United States Senate,” Biden said.

“I put it on, but I don’t think it’s going to survive.”

Instead, the president said he is prepared to work on a standalone $ 15 minimum wage proposal.

Congressional Democrats chose to use the procedural maneuver known as budget reconciliation to pass the bill, allowing it to pass by a simple majority in the Senate. Most of the legislation requires 60 votes in the Senate to move forward, so the budget reconciliation process allows Democrats, who have a 50-seat majority, to pass the bill without any Republican vote.

There are strict rules for using the budget reconciliation process, such as the “Byrd rule,” which requires that all provisions of the bill be related to the budget and must not increase the federal deficit after a 10-year budget window. MP Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that the minimum wage increase did not meet the parameters for budget reconciliation.

Some Democrats had already voiced their opposition to including a $ 15 minimum wage provision in the aid bill. Sen. Joe Manchin told reporters this week that he believed a minimum wage of $ 15 by 2025 was too high and would be detrimental to more rural states like his own West Virginia.

“$ 11 is the right place to be,” Manchin told reporters Monday. “Throwing away $ 15 right now makes it very difficult in rural America.”

If the MP allowed the minimum wage to be included, it is not clear that Democrats would have been able to muster the votes to pass it as is. The Senate can waive the opinion of the parliamentarian, which requires a simple majority.

In a statement, Sanders said he “strongly disagrees with the Senate MP’s decision tonight.” However, he said he would push to move forward with an amendment that penalizes corporations that do not provide a $ 15 minimum wage and provides incentives for small businesses to increase their wages.

“In the coming days, I will work with my colleagues in the Senate to move forward with an amendment that eliminates tax deductions for large, profitable corporations that do not pay workers at least $ 15 an hour and to provide small businesses with the incentive they need to raise wages. That amendment should be included in this conciliation bill, “he said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also said he is “deeply disappointed” with the decision.

“We are not going to give up the fight to raise the minimum wage to $ 15 to help millions of struggling American workers and their families,” he said, without providing details. “The American people deserve it, and we are committed to making it happen.”

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, on the other hand, applauded the ruling, tweeting that he is “very pleased that the Senate MP has ruled that a minimum wage increase is an inappropriate policy change in reconciliation.

“This decision reinforces reconciliation and cannot be used as a vehicle to pass major legislative changes, by either party, by simple majority,” added Graham. “This decision, over time, will reinforce the traditions of the Senate.”

The House is expected to vote Friday on Biden’s original proposal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Thursday night that the House would vote on the version of the bill, including raising the minimum wage.

“House Democrats believe that raising the minimum wage is necessary. Therefore, this provision will remain tomorrow in the US Rescue Plan. House Democrats are determined to go all the way in the future. Fight for 15, “Pelosi said.

The bill is expected to pass the House without a Republican vote. Progressive Democrats in the House may choose to take a hard line on raising the minimum wage and refuse to support any version of the bill that does not include a $ 15 minimum wage, creating a clash with more moderate members of the party in the Senate.

Raising the minimum wage is very popular, with a 2019 Pew Research Center poll showing 67% of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $ 15. It even has support in some red states, as evidenced by a ballot initiative. in Florida to increase the minimum wage increase to $ 15 by 2026, which was approved with the support of more than 60% of voters in the last election.

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