Senate Parliamentarian Won’t Allow $15 Minimum Wage In Biden COVID Relief Bill
Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled against the planned minimum wage increase to $15 per hour included in President Joe Biden‘s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, the American Rescue Plan.
The Senate Parliamentarian’s role is to determine standing rules and procedures of the Senate. MacDonough ruled that Biden’s minimum wage increase is outside the bounds of Senate budget reconciliation rules, saying it is illegal under current budget restrictions. Many expert’s pointed to MacDonough’s power in determining Biden’s relief roll out, saying she could block many of his key provisions.
While the parliamentarian is not strictly required for every action in the Senate, because Democrats plan to pass the American Rescue Plan through budget reconciliation, meaning that senators could not filibuster it, the parliamentarian now has an advisory role on the bill.
House Democrats, however, will still send its bill to the Senate with the $15 minimum wage provision intact. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) explained House Democrats’ stance in a statement Thursday.
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“House Democrats believe that the minimum wage hike is necessary. Therefore, this provision will remain in the American Rescue Plan on the Floor tomorrow. Democrats in the House are determined to pursue every possible path in the Fight For 15,” said Pelosi.
House and Senate Democrats are also calling on Vice President Kamala Harris to take action by overruling the parliamentarian, but the White House has since indicated that Harris will not overrule MacDonough.
The Senate vote becomes more and more precarious as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) said he will also not vote to overrule the parliamentarian, meaning that 60 Senators would now be needed to vote in favor of Biden’s plan for it to pass with the $15 minimum wage intact.
Senate Republicans consider the killing of the $15 mandate a victory. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said in a statement Thursday that he was, “very pleased the Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that a minimum wage increase is an inappropriate policy change in reconciliation.” Graham and Senate Republicans believe the minimum wage increase is irrelevant to COVID-19 legislation, ignoring the increased strain and living cost on essential workers during the pandemic, a vast majority of whom are paid minimum wage.
The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2013. Had the Biden American Rescue Plan gone unchallenged, workers in the 17 states who currently make $7.25 per hour, and the 36 others who earn less than $15 would have gotten a substantial pay raise.
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