President Joe Biden and Democrats in both the House and Senate sought to include a major minimum wage hike in the coronavirus relief package currently making its way through Congress, despite such a measure having nothing to do with the ongoing pandemic.
Unfortunately for Biden and company, that plan was just thwarted by a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian, who argued that a provision increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour would violate rules governing the reconciliation process that Dems are using to push the COVID-19 relief package through with only a simple majority, as NBC News reports.
It’s not going to happen
According to NBC, the Senate parliamentarian is a sort of nonpartisan legislative “referee” who ensures that the upper chamber’s members — and the laws they write — stay in line with the agreed-upon rules, at least when it comes to processes and procedures.
The particular procedure in question is known as “budget reconciliation,” and Senate Democrats were hoping to use it to pass their relief package with only a simply 51-vote majority, rather than the 60-vote majority that is typically required.
With a 50–50 split in the upper chamber, Dems are apparently worried they won’t be able to push the bill through at the higher threshold.
However, the reconciliation process includes what is known as the “Byrd Rule” that limits amendments within the legislation to covering only taxes and spending.
The parliamentarian decided Thursday that the proposed minimum wage hike did not fit within those guidelines, according to NBC.
It was a decision that left President Biden “disappointed,” according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
“President Biden is disappointed in this outcome, as he proposed having the $15 minimum wage as part of the American Rescue Plan,” Psaki said in a statement. “He respects the parliamentarian’s decision and the Senate’s process.”
Psaki also promised that Biden would “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,” the press secretary concluded.
Despite demands from many Senate Democrats for Vice President Kamala Harris to intervene and overrule the parliamentarian’s decision, the White House has made clear that such a move is highly unlikely, The Hill reports.