Leading progressive Democrats are expressing confidence that President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package will include a provision setting the federal minimum wage at $15 per hour.
In a statement released over the weekend, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he was optimistic that the Senate parliamentarian would permit the change.
“Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is not incidental to the federal budget and is permissible under the rules of reconciliation,” the socialist Democrat said, “The CBO has found that the $15 minimum wage has a much greater impact on the federal budget than opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and repealing the individual mandate penalties — two provisions that the parliamentarian advised did not violate the Byrd Rule when Republicans controlled the Senate.
“I’m confident that the parliamentarian will advise next week that we can raise the minimum wage through the reconciliation process,” he continued.
The Senate parliamentarian, acting in compliance with the Byrd rule, is required to determine whether items like a $15 minimum wage provision would count as “extraneous matter” or be permitted in legislation through a process called budget reconciliation.
Democrats have said they will pass the goliath spending bill through a procedural process known as “budget reconciliation,” which will allow them to sidestep opposition from the GOP.
Had Democrats been able to maintain some Republican backing, they wouldn’t need to use the reconciliation process.
The current parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, has not yet determined whether the minimum wage rule could be included through reconciliation.
A decision is expected this week.
Speaking to CNN on Saturday, Sanders continued to maintain his confidence, saying, “I’m very proud of the strong arguments our legal team is making to the parliamentarian that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is not ‘incidental’ to the federal budget and is permissible under the rules of reconciliation.”
Speaking to CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wa.) reiterated Sanders’ message.
“I know there are questions about whether or not the Senate can get it through,” the progressive pol told the network, adding that she had been speaking to Sanders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the White House on the matter, “If Republicans could give a $2 trillion tax break to the wealthiest people and stop Arctic drilling, then — or continue drilling in the Arctic — then I think that Democrats can make sure that 30 million Americans get a raise [through reconciliation].”
Asked if she’d still support the package if the minimum wage provision did not make the final text language, Jayapal sidestepped, saying she believed she wouldn’t have to make that choice.
“I think it’s going to be included, so I don’t think we’re going to have to make that decision.”
President Biden, however, has not shared Jayapal’s optimism on the matter, cautioning on multiple occasions that he could not guarantee that the wage hike would be in this legislation.