Leading progressives—including Sen. Bernie Sanders and Reps. Ro Khanna and Pramila Jayapal—reacted with opposition and disbelief Thursday evening after Elizabeth MacDonough, the chief Senate parliamentarian, issued her belief and guidance that inclusion of a federal minimum wage increase in the pending Covid-19 relief package does not qualify for the budget reconciliation process that would allow the bill to be passed by the chamber with a simple majority.
“I strongly disagree with tonight’s decision by the Senate Parliamentarian,” said Sanders in a statement. Citing recent reviews by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which showed the outsized impact that raising the wage would have on the federal budget, the Vermont lawmaker and current Senate Budget Committee chairman—who has made raising the federal minimum a cornerstone of his presidential campaigns in both 2016 and 2020—said the assessment wildly missed the mark.
“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 said. “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.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday evening the provision will remain in the House bill on which the chamber is voting Friday. However, the parliamentarian ruled that the increase to $15 per hour did not meet a strict set of guidelines needed to move forward in the Senate’s reconciliation process. That means that the House will pass its bill, the Senate will have to strip the minimum wage provision out, and then eventually the House will have to pass that bill again at the end of the process.
“We are deeply disappointed in this decision,” Schumer said in a statement following the ruling. “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.”
The parliamentarian’s decision marks the end of a multi-weeks effort by Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, to include the provision in the relief bill.