The Senate parliamentarian on Thursday ruled against including a boost to the minimum wage in a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, arguing that it runs afoul of budget rules. The decision from the parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, is a significant blow to progressives, who viewed the plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour as one of their top priorities in the massive coronavirus relief plan. Because Democrats are trying to pass the coronavirus bill through reconciliation — a fast-track process that lets them bypass the 60-vote legislative filibuster — every provision has to comply with arcane budget rules.
But in order for the minimum wage language to survive the Senate, Democrats and Vice President Harris would need to effectively sideline the parliamentarian.
Though some House progressives immediately called for action from Harris on Thursday night, the White House has said it isn’t supportive of that option and Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinKlain on Manchin’s objection to Neera Tanden: He ‘doesn’t answer to us at the White House’ Klain says Harris would not overrule parliamentarian on minimum wage increase On The Money: Senate panels postpone Tanden meetings in negative sign | Biden signs supply chain order after ‘positive’ meeting with lawmakers MORE (D-W.Va.) has pledged that he won’t vote to effectively blow up the budget rules.
Democrats will instead need 60 votes to overcome an inevitable GOP challenge in the wake of the parliamentarian’s ruling, support that it doesn’t have, if they want the minimum wage hike to survive the Senate.
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Progressive support builds for expanding lower courts McConnell backs Garland for attorney general MORE (S.C.), the top Republican on the Budget Committee, immediately declared victory following the ruling.
“Very pleased the Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that a minimum wage increase is an inappropriate policy change in reconciliation,” he said.
No GOP senator has suggested that they would be supportive of a $15 per hour minimum wage, instead arguing that the topic wasn’t related to the coronavirus relief legislation.
The ruling caps off weeks of behind-the-scenes efforts by both sides to try to sway the parliamentarian in their favor.
Though progressives have argued that the wage hike complied with the budget rules, some congressional Democrats and President BidenJoe BidenKlain on Manchin’s objection to Neera Tanden: He ‘doesn’t answer to us at the White House’ Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Overnight Defense: New Senate Armed Services chairman talks Pentagon policy nominee, Afghanistan, more | Biden reads report on Khashoggi killing | Austin stresses vaccine safety in new video MORE have appeared skeptical that it would make it in the final bill.
“I put it in, but I don’t think it’s going to survive,” Biden told CBS News earlier this month, citing Senate rules on reconciliation.
If the parliamentarian had ruled in Democrats favor, it was expected to set off a fierce intra-party fight over what the minimum wage hike would look like.
House progressives have drawn a red line on including a rate of $15 per hour, with some threatening to vote against the coronavirus bill if it was watered down. But a $15 per hour minimum wage doesn’t have 50 votes in the Senate, with Manchin and Sen. Krysten SinemaKyrsten SinemaHumanist Report host criticizes ‘conservative Democrats:’ They ‘hold more power’ than progressives How Joe Biden made history in Arizona Replacing Justice Ginsburg could depend on Arizona’s next senator MORE (D-Ariz.) opposed to the amount.
Manchin had been expected to try to lower the wage increase to $11 per hour once the Senate takes up the coronavirus bill next week.
Staffers for both parties had a final meeting with the parliamentarian Wednesday morning to try to make their case for a final time.
“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.
Updated 9:44 p.m.