Senate Parliamentarian Rules $15 Minimum Wage Cannot Be Included in COVID-19 Stimulus Bill

Biden 'disappointed,' says White House
February 25, 2021 Updated: February 27, 2021

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that the $15 per hour minimum wage cannot be included in the Democrats’ proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package.

The controversial proposal in the House bill seeks to gradually raise the federal minimum wage, which has been at $7.25 an hour since 2009, to $15 by 2025.

Elizabeth MacDonough, the chief Senate parliamentarian, has decided that the minimum wage increase cannot be included under the budget reconciliation process, according to multiple reports.

Per the Byrd Rule—a procedural step for determining the eligibility of a provision to be included in a reconciliation bill—MacDonough and her team heard arguments from Democrats and Republicans about whether the wage increase aligns with reducing the budget deficit. She decided that the wage increase did not meet the criteria to be included in the bill under the reconciliation process.

Democrats in the House and Senate earlier this month sought to fast track Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package by passing a budget resolution to start the reconciliation process that would allow the bill to move forward by simple majority votes, instead of needing 60 votes threshold to break any possible filibuster before coming to a vote in the tied Senate that gives Vice President Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote. The reconciliation process also limits debate to 20 hours and does not allow filibuster in the Senate, among other requirements.

The decision by the Senate parliamentarian suggests that any minimum wage increase provisions cannot be passed with a simple Senate majority and would require bipartisan support.

“President Biden is disappointed in this outcome, as he proposed having the $15 minimum wage as part of the American Rescue Plan,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “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 $1,400 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.”

jen psaki
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a news briefing at the White House in Washington, on Feb. 25, 2021. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“We are deeply disappointed in this decision,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement to news outlets. “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.”

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C) welcomed the decision on Twitter, writing, “Very pleased the Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that a minimum wage increase is an inappropriate policy change in reconciliation. 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.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pressed for the wage increase provision in the bill on Thursday morning. “We will pass a minimum wage bill,” she said, adding that Democrats have been “working on this fight” for years and the increase is “long overdue.”

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