Minimum Wage Hike in Pandemic Relief Bill Violates Budget Rules, Senate Parliamentarian Says

(Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP)

In a major setback for Joe Biden and his radical allies, the Senate parliamentarian has ruled that the $15 an hour minimum wage provision in the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill must be removed for violating budget rules.


Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the House would still vote on the wage hike, ostensibly to get Republicans on record opposing it. But the provision is dead on arrival in the Senate.

Desperate Democrats are looking for a way to alter the ruling. They believe that as president pro tempore, Vice President Harris could override the parliamentarian’s decision. While technically true, both Harris and Biden have indicated that they will not upend the traditions of the Senate to get the wage hike in the relief bill.

“We are deeply disappointed in this decision,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said. “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 ruling means that any senator could raise a point order against the minimum wage increase, which would force the provision to be axed from the bill.

Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he would seek to strip tax benefits from large profitable companies that don’t pay their workers $15 an hour during floor debate on the Covid relief bill.

House Democrats will keep the minimum wage hike in their version of the bill as it goes up for a vote Friday night. The move, which had been telegraphed by Democratic leaders this week, will save hours, if not days, of headaches of rewriting key sections of the bill — while also maintaining caucus unity over the enormous bill.


Senator Lindsey Graham pointed out the reasons for the budget rules: “This decision reinforces reconciliation cannot be used as a vehicle to pass major legislative change — by either party — on a simple majority vote. This decision will, over time, reinforce the traditions of the Senate.”

Meanwhile, the radicals are wringing their hands, at a loss for what to do.

The Hill:

“The Senate parliamentarian issues an advisory opinion. The VP can overrule them—as has been done before,” tweeted Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “We should do EVERYTHING we can to keep our promise, deliver a $15 minimum wage, and give 27 million workers a raise.”

“I’m sorry—an unelected parliamentarian does not get to deprive 32 million Americans the raise they deserve,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) tweeted. “This is an advisory, not a ruling. VP Harris needs to disregard and rule a $15 minimum wage in order.”

“We were elected to deliver for the people. It’s time we do our job,” he tweeted.

If Harris were to overrule Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough it would destroy the budget reconciliation process. Those rules on what can be included in a reconciliation bill — called “The Byrd Rules” after the late West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd — were adopted so that neither side could, as Senator Graham points out, use the process to sneak through major legislative changes.


The radicals don’t care about “both sides.” They want their side to win and will do whatever it takes to make it happen. Rules? We don’t need no stinkin’ rules. They will burn every bridge and destroy every tradition to get their way.



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