A key advisor to the U.S. Senate on the chamber’s rules and procedures said Thursday that a $15 national minimum wage—a major priority for President Biden and progressive Democrats—cannot be included in the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill Democrats are pushing through Congress under budget reconciliation rules.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at an event to sign an Executive Order on the economy with Vice ... [+] President Kamala Harris February 24, 2021 in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC.Getty Images
The special budget process will allow Democrats, who now control the Senate by the slimmest of margins, to pass Biden’s aggressive stimulus proposal without any Republican votes, but reconciliation rules also require that every provision in the legislation have a direct impact on the federal budget.
Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate’s parliamentarian, said Thursday that the wage hike does not meet the criteria to be included in the bill under the special reconciliation process, according to multiple news reports.
The push for a $15 minimum wage emerged as a divisive issue this month as lawmakers began crafting the sweeping rescue package.
Republicans objected to the provision on the basis that it would be too expensive for businesses and could actually cost jobs.
Conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has said he objects to the wage hike (he has suggested that an $11 per hour national minimum wage would make more sense for his state), as has Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
“We must pass a minimum wage bill,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (R-Calif.) said during a press briefing Thursday morning. She added that the last time Congress raised the federal minimum wage was 14 years ago, when Democrats passed a bill raising the federal minimum wage to $7.25 per hour in 2007.
Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan includes another round of $1,400 stimulus checks for individuals—another sticking point for some lawmakers. The proposal also includes expanded federal unemployment insurance of $400 per week through the end of August, a major expansion of the child tax credit, $130 billion for schools, $160 billion for coronavirus testing, tracing, and vaccines, roughly $7 billion for small businesses and $350 billion for state and local governments.
On Tuesday, Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Mitt Romney of Utah introduced a counterproposal to raise the minimum wage to $10 by 2025 and then index the wage to inflation every two years. That plan would grant businesses with fewer than 20 employees an extra two years to comply with the federal minimum, and it would require that employers verify the legal state of their workers. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) signed onto that plan on Thursday, one day Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced another alternative. Hawley’s plan would send quarterly refundable tax credits to workers earning less than $16.50 per hour. The tax credits would only go to those workers with valid Social Security numbers.
What To Watch For
The House of Representatives will vote on its version of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Friday. The Senate will also assemble its own version of the legislation, and the two bills must be reconciled before they are sent to Biden’s desk.
What We Don’t Know
The Washington Post reported Thursday afternoon that House Democrats still planned to include the $15 minimum wage provision in the bill if the parliamentarian voted against them, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told CNN Thursday evening that Democrats hadn’t yet made that decision.