Progressives in the House and Senate are demanding that Vice President Kamala Harris use her “power” to overrule the Senate parliamentarian, who determined, Thursday, that a minimum wage hike could not be included in the Democrats’ COVID-19 relief bill if they plan on passing it using “reconciliation.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), all issued statements Thursday night decrying the decision, which determined that the minimum wage hike is not “budget-related” and cannot be pushed through using “reconciliation” — a parliamentary technique that gives the Senate the ability to pass a “budget-related” bill with a simple majority rather than a filibuster-proof one.
“I strongly disagree with tonight’s decision by the Senate Parliamentarian,” Sanders said in a statement, citing a Congressional Budget Office report that did, indeed, note that the minimum wage increase would have an impact on the federal budget, even though it also mentioned that the hike would cost the American economy an estimated 1.4 million jobs.
“The CBO made it absolutely clear that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour had a substantial budgetary impact and should be allowed under reconciliation,” Sanders added. “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.”
Khanna suggested that the parliamentarian was an unelected official inappropriately exercising her authority over elected members of Congress.
“Amazing that American democracy has landed in a place where some unheard of parliamentarian ends up deciding whether or not a law gets passed to give millions a raise. Simple question: are you on the side of structural reform in standing up to this system or for the status quo?” he said.
“The Constitution gives the Vice President the power to decide whether the $15 minimum wage can pass through reconciliation. The parliamentarian’s opinion is advisory, which VPs have disregarded before. Do not let anyone tell you that we do not have the power to pass $15 wage,” he added late Thursday in a tweet.
Even the far-left outlet Truthout, though, noted that the “parliamentarian’s advice is typically honored on Capitol Hill,” but they did suggest that Vice President Kamala Harris could issue a ruling of her own, pressing forward with the minimum wage hike and opening the legislation up to a challenge if it were to pass by 51 votes.
“Harris must fight for $15 like she promised on the campaign trail by overturning the Senate parliamentarian,” one progressive activist demanded on social media. “Madam Vice President, there is no next time—fight for $15 NOW. Workers have been striking for $15 and a Union since 2013—it’s way past time for our leaders in Congress and the White House to stand with workers.”
Harris, for her part, has been mum on her plans, but she’s unlikely to depart from the Biden administration’s line on the subject, which is that the minimum wage hike will have to wait for a separate bill.
It is, of course, unlikely that even if the minimum wage provision gets tacked to COVID relief, that the bill would pass. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema are both, at least for now, opposed to raising the wage as part of a coronavirus relief package.
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