Last Thursday, the Senate Parliamentarian disallowed the provision for minimum wage in the COVID-19 relief bill. Elizabeth MacDonough said that the minimum wage proposal doesn't comply with Senate rules. Consequently, Democrats cannot include the measure in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
Democrats, realizing their razor-thin majority, have opted for reconciliation to pass legislation without the need for a two-thirds majority. However, the reconciliation process places a number of restrictions on what policy measures can be included in the legislation.
The parliamentarian is the neutral arbiter of the chamber’s rules. The title carries the designation as an official advisor to the United States Senate on the interpretation of Standing Rules of the United States Senate and parliamentary procedure. Reconciliation rules state a measure must have a meaningful fiscal impact that isn’t merely incidental” to the policy proposal. Ultimately, MacDonough said that the inclusion of the minimum wage didn’t meet the guidelines for reconciliation. According to her, the minimum wage increase will not create a meaningful budget impact. Consequently, this meant the provision is out of order and cannot be part of the bill.
$15 Federal Minimum Wage
Democrats include a federal $15 an hour minimum wage by 2025 as one of their top priorities. While the party’s majority supports the idea, some moderate Dems raised concerns about the need to shoehorn it into the coronavirus stimulus package. Some senators, like Joe Manchin (D-WV), wanted smaller increases. He said he will push for amending the wage increase to $11 an hour.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) is among those who advocated the raise. “We are deeply disappointed in this 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. The American people deserve it, and we are committed to making it a reality,” he said.
Republicans Hail the Decision
Meanwhile, Republicans hailed the parliamentarian’s recommendation Thursday night.“This decision reinforces reconciliation cannot be used as a vehicle to pass major legislative change by either party on a simple majority vote. This decision will, over time, reinforce the traditions of the Senate,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Graham is the top Republican in the powerful Senate Budget Committee.
In previous years, Republicans amended reconciliation bills to comply with the parliamentarian’s guidance. When GOP lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they ran into problems trying to repeal the individual mandate. This means many individuals need to buy coverage or pay a penalty. After conferring with MacDonough, Republicans altered the bill to leave the mandate but placed the penalty to zero.
Pressure on Democrats
Now, the pressure is on Democrats on whether to ignore the Parliamentarian’s guidance or amend the bill to confirm. Some progressive Democrats pushed to approve the measure. However, this is an unusual step that both parties want to avoid. “I just don’t think we can go back to voters and say ‘Oh, I’m sorry we promised this to you, we couldn’t do it because the parliamentarian ruled we couldn’t do it.’ Voters expect us to fight for this and get it done,” Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said. In addition, the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus said that it’s possible for the chair to include it despite the ruling.
Under the chamber’s rules, the Senate presiding officer, Vice President Kamala Harris, can choose to disregard the parliamentarian’s advice. However, this can set a precedent where either party will tend to ignore the parliamentarian in future issues. Already, some Democratic senators said they are uncomfortable with rejecting the parliamentarian’s advice in order to raise the minimum wage. The White House also wants to comply.
Pass a Separate Bill for Minimum Wage
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said they will look into passing separate legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. “We will pass a minimum wage bill,” Mrs. Pelosi said Thursday. However, any legislation outside of the reconciliation process needs 60 votes in the Senate. Meanwhile, Republicans already went on record saying they find a $15 increase harmful to businesses.
Watch the MSNBC News report where the Senate Parliamentarian ruled that minimum wage increase cannot be included in Covid Relief Bill:
Do you agree that the minimum wage proposal shouldn’t be part of the COVID relief bill? In addition, do you support the wage adjustment? Tell us what you think by sharing your thoughts in the comment section below.