Democrats Await Key Ruling On $15 Minimum Wage In Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Package


Democrats pushing forward with President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan could see a decision from a key Senate advisor as soon as Wednesday about whether a $15 minimum wage can be included in the legislation, but that ruling isn’t the only hurdle standing in the way of the major progressive priority.

Key Facts

Democrats are using a special process called budget reconciliation to pass Biden’s stimulus plan with only a simple majority of votes (and over Republican objections), but those rules come with a big restriction: every provision must have a direct impact on the federal budget.

The Senate Parliamentarian—the official advisor on the Senate’s rules and procedures—will meet with lawmakers on Wednesday to hear arguments about whether the wage hike should or should not be included under reconciliation rules, Politico reported.

Even if the parliamentarian rules in favor of the wage hike, Democrats will still face obstacles within their own caucus. 

Two Democratic Senators—Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—have said they oppose a $15 minimum wage. 

On Monday, Manchin told CNN that he would push to reduce the wage hike from $15 to $11 per hour if it remains in the legislation, a level he has previously said is more practical for West Virginia.

Manchin is a critical swing vote for Democrats, who only have a razor thin majority of 50 votes (plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaker vote) in the Senate and cannot afford to lose a single one of them without picking up a Republican vote to make up the difference.

Crucial Quote

“If Joe Manchin isn’t going to vote for it because of the minimum wage, I assume we have to take it out or compromise in a way that he would accept,” House Budget Chair John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) told Politico

Big Number

1.4 million. That’s how many jobs Biden’s plan to raise the national minimum wage to $15 per hour over five years would cost, according to the Congressional Budget Office. At the same time, the plan would pull 900,000 Americans out of poverty and add $54 billion to the federal deficit.

Key Background

The House Budget Committee voted Monday to advance that chamber’s version of the massive relief package, which for now includes the $15 minimum wage provision. The legislation now heads to the House’s Rules Committee and then to the House floor for a vote, which could come as soon as Friday. The Senate will also assemble its own version of the relief package, which could differ from the House’s version. Changes could be made to accommodate the parliamentarian’s ruling, if necessary, and to ensure the package is acceptable to all members of the caucus, progressive and moderate alike. Once the House and Senate have reconciled the differences between the two bills, they can send the final legislation to Biden’s desk for signature. Democratic leaders have expressed confidence that Biden will sign the bill before the current tranche of enhanced federal unemployment benefits expires on March 14.

Further Reading

It’s A Big Week For Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Plan—Here’s What To Watch For (Forbes)

Power Up: All eyes are on Senate parliamentarian as Democrats press minimum wage increase (Washington Post)

Key Democratic lawmaker says he will try to amend Covid-19 relief bill with $11 minimum wage hike (CNN)

‘Quite Damaging’: White House Advisor Says Stimulus Opposition Will Hurt GOP (Forbes)

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