House Democrats to keep minimum wage hike in COVID-19 relief bill for Friday vote

House Democrats will leave a provision to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour in their version of the COVID-19 relief package set for a vote on Friday despite a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian that the measure does not comply with budgetary rules. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling “disappointing” in a statement on Thursday night but said that the House will still vote on the $1.9 trillion relief package on Friday with the minimum wage increase.

Democrats will then leave it up to the Senate to remove the provision when it reaches the upper chamber.

“House Democrats believe that the minimum wage hike is necessary. Therefore, this provision will remain in the American Rescue Plan on the floor tomorrow,” Pelosi said. “Tomorrow, when we pass the American Rescue Plan, the American people will know that Help Is On The Way.”

Pelosi added that House Democrats are “determined to pursue every possible path in the Fight For 15” but didn’t specify the other options.

The Senate parliamentarian ruled earlier Thursday night that the provision, which would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025, did not comply with arcane budget rules needed for it to pass under the process known as reconciliation.

The process would allow Democrats to pass their COVID-19 relief package with a simple majority.

Even though the minimum wage won’t make it into the final relief package, Democrats are still determined to show support for the progressive priority.

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said in a statement Thursday that “the Senate Parliamentarian’s ruling has no bearing on the House and should not compel the House to throw in the towel on such a critical issue.”

“I firmly believe the House should send the Senate a relief package with the minimum wage provision and allow the Senate to navigate the procedural hurdles,” Scott said.

While centrist Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) have expressed opposition to raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, hiking it to that rate is widely popular among House Democrats.

All but six House Democrats voted for a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in 2019. And of those six, all but Rep. Kurt Schrader (Ore.) lost reelection in November.

The Senate did not take up the bill in 2019 since it was controlled by Republicans at the time. If House Democrats were to pass a separate bill to raise the minimum wage, it would be subject to a 60-vote threshold to clear a filibuster in the Senate.

Manchin has suggested raising the minimum wage to $11 per hour instead, but progressives have pushed back against the idea.

Following the parliamentarian’s decision Thursday evening, progressives in both chambers of Congress expressed their frustration, posing alternatives to pursue their minimum wage goal. 

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) proposed a Plan B in the form of an amendment to the relief package that would eliminate tax breaks for large corporations that don’t have a minimum wage of $15 per hour and offer incentives for small businesses to raise workers’ pay.

“That amendment must be included in this reconciliation bill,” Sanders said.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said that Democrats “can and should still include the minimum wage increase in the bill” and called for changes to Senate rules so that it could be included.

“We simply cannot go back to the Black, Brown, AAPI, Indigenous, poor and working class voters who delivered us the White House and the Senate majority and tell them that an unelected parliamentarian advised us – based on arcane rules – that we could not raise the minimum wage as we promised,” Jayapal said. 

The House is expected to pass the $1.9 trillion relief package on Friday evening. The all-encompassing legislation includes a third round of stimulus checks of up to $1,400 to individuals, renewed unemployment insurance benefits and $130 billion to help K-12 schools reopen for in-person classroom instruction.

Democrats are planning to send the relief package to President Biden’s desk before current unemployment insurance benefits expire on March 14.

The Senate is expected to take up the relief package next week following House passage on Friday. The House would then vote on any changes to the legislation again the following week.

Updated 9:37 p.m.

Tags Bernie Sanders Bobby Scott COVID-19 federal minimum wage Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kurt Schrader Nancy Pelosi Pramila Jayapal reconciliation process
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