Parliamentarian Decides No $15 Minimum Wage in Covid Relief Package

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The U.S. Senate parliamentarian has decided that the $15 dollar minimum wage increase should be left out of President Joe Biden’s “American Rescue Plan,” a $1.9 trillion dollar covid relief package.

The U.S. Senate parliamentarian has decided that the $15 dollar minimum wage increase should be left out of President Joe Biden’s “American Rescue Plan,” a $1.9 trillion dollar covid relief package. 

Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough is in the limelight after her decision to remove the $15 dollar minimum wage under the Byrd rule. The Democrats were trying to push the American Rescue plan through via reconciliation, allowing the bill to be passed with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 necessary votes. The move met a roadblock with MacDonough. 

MacDonough, who is playing a non-partisan role, heard arguments from both Republicans and Democrats before she came to her decision. 

CNN reported that the removal might make it easier for the Democrats to pass the bill because it will avoid a “messy fight” over whether to strip the $15 minimum wage out of the bill or make some compromise. 

Biden disappointed about MacDonough’s decision regarding the relief package

Press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement: 

“President Biden is disappointed in this outcome, as he proposed having the $15 minimum wage as part of the American Rescue Plan. He respects the parliamentarian’s decision and the Senate’s process. He will work with leaders in Congress to determine the best path forward because no one in this country should work full time and live in poverty. He urges Congress to move quickly to pass the American Rescue Plan, which includes $1400 rescue checks for most Americans, funding to get this virus under control, aid to get our schools reopened, and desperately needed help for the people who have been hardest hit by this crisis.”

According to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), If they were to go through with the minimum wage plan, by 2025, it would reduce the workforce by 1.4 million people, while the number of people being lifted out of poverty would be 900,000, and “young, less educated people would account for a disproportionate share of those reductions in employment.”

Senator Bernie Sanders has been and continues to be a strong proponent of the $15 minimum wage. (Image: Michael Vadon via Flickr  CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was very disappointed with MacDonough’s decision, stating:

“I strongly disagree with tonight’s decision by the Senate Parliamentarian… It is hard for me to understand how drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was considered to be consistent with the Byrd Rule, while increasing the minimum wage is not. 60 percent of the American people want to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The House of Representatives has voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The President of the United States wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. I’m confident that we have a majority in the United States Senate including the Vice President that would vote to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour as part of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Yet because of the archaic and undemocratic rules of the Senate we are unable to move forward to end starvation wages in this country and raise the income of 32 million struggling Americans. That fight continues.”

Both parties usually respect parliamentarian’s rulings. MacDonough is the first woman to fill the role since it began in 1935. 

“This decision reinforces [that] 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,” Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C) said on Twitter.

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  • David Wagner is a University of Manitoba graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Religion in Sociology. He is interested in the psychology of religious and ideological belief and the relationship between religions and the state in totalitarian countries.