Progressives Threaten To Abandon COVID-19 Relief If It Doesn’t Include Minimum Wage Hike
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks to the media at the Houston Food Bank on February 20, 2021 in Houston, Texas. - The lawmakers address the weather disaster in Texas and helped distribute food at the food bank.
THOMAS SHEA/AFP via Getty Images

Progressive legislators, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), are threatening to bolt on the Biden administration’s COVID-19 relief bill if the measure does not include a hike in the minimum wage, according to Fox Business.

Speaking to a reporter from Politico Wednesday, Ocasio-Cortez said that she and other progressives would abandon support for the $1.8 trillion aid package, that funds federal supplemental unemployment and extends an additional, individual relief check to most American taxpayers if the Biden administration decides it cannot pass the bill through “reconciliation” with the $15 minimum wage attached.

“There’s a scenario, where if our party is voluntarily trying to strip this provision, where we take a stand against it,” she said.

“It’s a small technicality, but I do think we’ve got to use every tool in our toolbox here. Whether it is reconciliation, whether it is, you know, ultimately reforming the filibuster. We’re going to need to deliver on our promise to raise the wage for 27 million Americans,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) added in an interview with MSNBC.

Democrats are determined to pass through the COVID-19 relief bill without Republicans, but to do so, they’ll need to use the “reconciliation” tactic — a parliamentary workaround that allows the Senate to pass certain legislation by a simple majority vote, but only if that legislation has a “direct impact on the budget,” per Fox.

A hike in the national minimum wage is likely not a provision with a “direct impact on the budget,” and even President Joe Biden has reportedly been quietly telling Democrat leaders that there’s little chance the $15 minimum wage will make it into the final bill if Democrats intend to avoid negotiating with Republicans. In early February, the White House itself seemed to signal that they were “abandoning” the minimum wage, The Daily Wire reported,

On Wednesday, determined not to see the $15 minimum wage stripped out by leadership, progressives took their argument to the Senate parliamentarian, demanding a ruling on whether the provision was, indeed, not “budget-related” under the rules.

“The Senate parliamentarian heard arguments on Wednesday from Democratic and Republican staff on whether raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 is allowed under chamber rules. It’s unclear when a decision will come, although it’s expected soon,” Fox News noted.

Progressives warned, though, that the parliamentarian’s decision is not final, and that, given that she is not a legislator, the Senate’s leadership could still override her advisory opinion, though that could leave the bill open to a challenge from the GOP. Without support from the White House, though, it seems they are counting on Vice President Kamala Harris to override her own boss to see that the minimum wage makes it through.

“The Constitution gives the Vice President the power to decide whether the $15 minimum wage can pass through reconciliation,” Rep. Ro Khanna said on Twitter late Wednesday. “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.”

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